By Sgt. Sidnie Smith-Swift | 4th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Soldiers from 6th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, conducted annual gunnery qualification Aug. 12, 2021, on AH-64D Apache helicopters, which included night training to keep the Soldiers’ skills sharp.
Capt. Rye O’Neal, officer in charge of the range with 6th ARS, 17th Cav. Reg., said night gunnery is an annual qualification for all AH-64 pilots, and flying at night adds an extra level of difficulty to these exercises.
“Your situational awareness is much lower at night. We have systems that allow us to see at night,” O’Neal said. “There’s no moon out, so there is zero natural light, which also degrades your natural night vision. It’s a much harder environment to navigate your aircraft in.”
The gunnery consists of multiple levels of difficulty, called Tables I-XII. The tables get progressively harder, going from a single air crew working together to multiple crews to accomplish missions.
Every air crew must qualify on Table XI, which consists of one AH-64D Apache firing on stationary and moving targets while pilots dive from the air, fly directly at targets or hover as they engage targets, all while being timed.
“It tests their (the pilots) ability to operate the weapons systems in the aircraft and function as an air crew effectively,” O’Neal said.
Approximately a mile away from where the AH-64D Apaches fire on the range, the forward arming and refueling point (FARP) loads ammunitions and refuels the aircraft that will be participating on the range. Soldiers move with fluidity to their assigned positions to ensure the AH-64D Apaches are loaded with their proper munitions and ready to fly.
Nonverbal communication is key for the crews working next to running aircraft, where voice communication can’t be heard.
“The amount of moving parts, the amount of people moving in different directions, it (the FARP) is easily the most dangerous place out there when it comes to Soldier safety,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mike Corsaro, command chief warrant officer with 4th CAB.
The annual gunnery has been running for three weeks, and the Soldiers have been rotating in and out in support of the gunnery qualification.
Soldiers with 6th ARS, 17th Cav. Reg., will be supporting 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., at their upcoming rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. There, they will support ground forces in many different scenarios. Training ensures 6th ARS, 17th Cav. Reg. maintains lethality.