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82nd Combat Aviation Brigade trains on new range

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MARCOA Media
Story by SPC Justin Stafford on 09/13/2019
U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade took to the sky and engaged targets above the installation's newest aerial gunnery range on Fort Bragg, N.C., Sept. 12, 2019.

The $45 million range, which opened earlier this year, is the newest and most advanced aerial gunnery range in the U.S. Army, said Wolf Amacker, an installation range officer.

"The aerial gunnery range is Fort Bragg's crown jewel of training facilities," said Amacker. "It is highly instrumented and can actually tell the pilots where each of their rounds are striking in relationship to the target. So, its very, very accurate and very, very important."

In the past, pilots had to visually interpret where they were hitting to determine whether or not they were getting the desired effect on a particular target. Pilots would also have to travel off of Fort Bragg for this type of training to other locations to places like Fort Stewart and Fort Drum.

"Now, Fort Bragg is receiving requests from other installations that want to use our new range," said Amacker.

The more than 1,100 acre range has over 460 targets controlled by a team in the observation tower, which is equipped with cameras and computers that generate printouts of where the target is struck.

Being able to train in your backyard and get feedback in real-time with this type of technology increases the readiness of the battalion, brigade and division, said Maj. Joy Nickel, an operations officer assigned to the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd CAB, 82nd Abn. Div.

"This aerial gunnery is 100% essential for us to be trained and ready. Everything we're doing at any second is about readiness," said Nickel. "And this is the most critical gateway for readiness for us."

The range strengthens the air crew's skills by making them more proficient and protective. Because it allows for creative scenarios and dynamics, it gives leaders the opportunity to build decision making skills under stress to better support ground forces, said Nickel.

The aerial gunnery range training increases readiness for more than just the pilots firing 30 mm rounds from the Apache's mounted weapons system. The training also involves ground personnel that support the aviation crew by establishing forward arming and refueling points during combat operations.

Everything done during the training is what would be expected on a deployment. From fuelers to ammunition specialists to communications and logistics, the training supports the 82nd Abn. Div. mission of "Jump, fight and win," said Nickel.

"The critical piece is fight and win. This range allows us to train to do just that. It's where we can really hone the skills to fight and win."

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