Kentucky Guard aviation Soldiers have a blast doing what they do best

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Story, photos and video by Spc. Tom Harrington, Bravo Company 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Air Assault Regiment Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

Staff. Sgt. Chris Morris preps the M240H machine gun for aerial gunnery during Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment's annual training at Fort Knox, Ky. in July.

NOTE:  Each week kentuckyguard.com publishes stories by Kentucky National Guard unit public affairs historian representatives, also known as UPAHRs.  This is an additional duty taken on by a Soldier or Airmen with the intent of telling their unit’s story.  This is one such story ….

FORT KNOX, Ky. — Kentucky Army National Guard aviation Soldiers got to do what they love when they fired more than 25,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition out of a belt fed, gas-operated M240H machine gun from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter last month over the skies of Fort Knox, Ky.  It was all part of aerial gunnery operations conducted by the troops from Bravo Company 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Air Assault Regiment conducted at Yano Range during the week of July 16-21.

Click here to see the highlight video from Bravo Company 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment’s annual training July 16-21, 2011.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YimfM0ChhhI&feature=player_embedded]

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Contrary to what you see in the movies and television, there’s more to firing a machine gun from a helicopter than “point and shoot.”

“It can be a little difficult to hit a moving target while you’re moving at the same time in the opposite direction,” said Spc. Andy Barrett, Bravo Company crew chief. “You’ve still got to continue your standard crew duties on top of crewing the weapon, and it’s a good experience to have the practice.  We don’t mount the M240’s all that much when we’re stateside.”

An M240H machine gun used for aerial gunnery by Bravo Company 2nd Battalion 147 Aviation Regiment at Fort Knox, Ky. in July.

Firing the M240H machine gun is an annual qualifying requirement for the crew chiefs assigned to the unit and the event is a staple of annual training every year. Enduring a 115 degree heat index, Bravo Company spent a week on the range qualifying 18 of their crew chiefs with the M240 hotel during the day and under night vision goggles.

While annual gunnery is an aircrew focused event, the rest of Soldiers also received valuable training during their week at Fort Knox.  Hot Forward Armament and Refueling Point operations and ground maintenance operations gave members of Bravo Company experience with the Blackhawk in a field environment.

“Annual training for myself, and the rest of the fuel section, presented a great opportunity to re-familiarize ourselves with our equipment and procedures necessary to effectively establish a hot FARP,” said Pfc. James Panek, Bravo Company refueler.  “It really made us feel like an integral piece of the flight operations puzzle.”

In addition to the crew chiefs annual qualification, more than 30 pilots and ground personnel were given the opportunity to have an aerial gunnery familiarization fire, a first for many.

Sgt. Jerry Foster, a Bravo Company refueler who had the opportunity to fire a M240H from the air for the first time said, “Shooting from the Blackhawk was way better than shooting from (an) M1A1 tank.”

Foster speaks from experience — he was previously assigned to an active duty armor unit.

Sgt. Tammy Farmer and Sgt. Josh Bryant run a forward armament and refuel point from their M978 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks refueling multiple UH-60 Blackhawks during aerial gunnery at Fort Knox, Ky. in July.

The training for the week is best summed by Staff Sgt Matt Singer, Platoon Sergeant and Senior Enlisted Flight Instructor for Bravo Company.

“It was a blast to get back to what we do best,” he said.  “Getting to see our new guys shoot a machine gun out of a moving helicopter really makes what we do worth it.”

Bravo Company has deployed twice in support of the War on Terror, once for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005-06 and then again for Operation Enduring Freedom to Kosovo in 2009-10 where they provided a wide array of aviation support.

Four UH-60 Blackhawks and two M978 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks park at Yano Range during aerial gunnery training for Bravo Company 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment at Fort Knox, Ky. in July.

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