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Wyoming Guard trains first aerial gunners

FORT SMITH, Ark.—The Wyoming Army National Guard Detachment 1, Alpha Company, 2nd of the 149th Aviation Battalion, made history in June.

The unit, stood up two years ago, flew three UH-60 Black Hawks and 21 soldiers to the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, for annual training during mid-June. It qualified four soldiers as aerial gunners and evaluators, a Wyoming Guard first.

Capt. Andrew Harrison, platoon leader for A Company, came to this unit from Colorado with the intent of getting the unit qualified on aerial gunnery. “We’ve accomplished exactly what we’ve set out to do,” he said. “Morale is high and the soldiers like what they’re doing here because they actually get to do (military occupational specialty) training.”

Wyoming’s fueling specialists, mechanics and pilots worked side-by-side with the counterparts in their sister unit from the Arkansas Army National Guard to qualify. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Nesvik was the first to go. He then helped other soldiers from both states to meet qualification standards.

“I evaluated one of our flight Instructors, and then they evaluated someone so that I could sign off on them as qualified on guns, and then qualified as an evaluators,” Nesvik said. “They then jumped off and helped to qualify the Arkansas soldiers.” 

In the first 24 hours of training, all the soldiers qualified for both day and night firing. Staff Sgt. Morgan Graham, a Black Hawk mechanic from Wyoming, said, “For a lot of us, it was our first time out after being in a medevac unit. So, there was a bit of a learning curve, but it still went fairly smoothly.”

As for the experience of shooting a machine gun from a moving helicopter, Graham said, “It’s the definition of freedom.”

Nesvik said he plans to get an aerial gunnery program set up in Wyoming. “It’ll take some time to get it going, but we have a good start coming down here with our sister unit to see how they do things.”