The 9th Mission Support Command is conducting its first-ever Operation Pacific Steel involving Soldiers from around the Pacific at Schofield Barracks from Oct. 3 through Dec. 5. The purpose of this exercise is for Soldiers to train on crew-served weapons and pass down their knowledge to their units as well as serving as a prerequisite to attend Operation Cold Steel.
The overall planner of this operation, Staff Sgt. Wes Liberty, who works with planning and exercises at the 9th MSC said, "Pacific Steel is ground mount (training) for heavy weapons, i.e., M240 (machine gun), Mk 19 (grenade launcher) and M2 .50 cal. (heavy machine gun).
Gunner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, engages targets with his protective mask while assistant gunner, Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, provides assistance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel on Nov. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)
"This is an operation that is actually trickled down from USARC (U.S. Army Reserve Command), he added. They conduct Operation Cold Steel where Soldiers who have qualified on ground-mounted weapons can be trained to operate on vehicle-mounted weapons," said Liberty.
Soldiers go through an eight-day training period. During that time, they attend various courses to ensure confidence on the weapon systems they are training on. Among these courses include virtual battlespace 3, gunnery skills training, preliminary marksmanship instructions and engagement skills trainer.
The Virtual Battlespace 3 course utilizes a first-person, three-dimensional, tactical mounted machine gun training software program which allows Soldiers to operate in a virtual reality environment using virtual mounted weapons. This in turn, prepares them when they operate real weapons during a live-fire training environment.
The gunnery skill test evaluates the crew member's ability to perform gunnery-related skills.
The Preliminary marksmanship instructions introduces Soldiers to the weapons they are training on and teaches them how to maintain, operate and corrects malfunctions.
Engagement skills trainer simulates weapons training for Soldiers and prepares them for live-fire qualifications for individual or crew-served weapons.
The weapons the Soldiers train on depends on when they in-process during Pacific Steel. From the beginning to the end of training, all Soldiers are paired up to operate weapons as a team. The first portion of Pacific Steel trains Soldiers on the M240 machine gun. The middle and final portion focus on the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun and MK 19 grenade launcher, respectively.
Liberty said Operation Pacific Steel required a lot of planning and preparation.
"This is the first time I'm doing this of this magnitude, so I had some help. I had a lot of help from Schofield, getting the barracks, getting the range, weapons," said Liberty.
"We're not doing too bad. Soldiers are coming, they're getting qualified, they're getting fed, they're getting rooms," he added.
Some Soldiers have already operated these weapons before coming to Pacific Steel, so this has been more like a review course for them.
Sgt. Kenny Tabula, 411th Engineer Battalion, fires his MK 19 grenade launcher while safety officers, Sgt. Angelyn Cayton and Sgt. Valentino Sigrah provide guidance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel, Nov. 17, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)
Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, came to Pacific Steel to train on the M2 .50 cal. heavy machine gun even though he had trained on it before. However, he stressed how in-depth the classes were on how to properly operate the M2 as a team.
"We learned PMI, disassemble, assemble, and how to do a functions check, but safety is always first," Miyamoto said.
His M2 partner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, who also trained on the M2 previously, emphasized that Soldiers not only should know how to operated a weapon, but also how to handle a weapon should it ever malfunction.
"Especially the malfunction part. Most people know how to shoot, but do you really know the weapon?"
Moreover, to reemphasize what his partner stated earlier," Safety is number one," Orosco said.
For Soldiers like Spc. Alika Jacang-Buchanan of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, it's his first time operating these types of weapons.
He came to Pacific Steel and was fortunate to get hands-on training on multiple weapons. He especially likes engaging targets with the MK 19.
"I like the MK 19 because there's a boom at the end," said Jacang-Buchanan.
Soldiers felt that participating in Pacific Steel is a good program and hopes that it will continue in the future. This exercise provides proper training and preparation for Soldiers to employ weapons that they would otherwise not have been likely to use.
Spc. Abraham Salevao of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, said, "It's a learning experience for not only combat MOSs, it's for everyone to learn. It's exciting, being behind that weapon, getting that rush. It's always good to learn, especially these weapons."
"I'd recommend everyone out there to try Pacific Steel," he added.