Small arms master gunner
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Small arms master gunner (SAMG) is an appointment of a subject matter expert in the field of small arms, optics, and lasers for combat units. Not all units have SAMGs. Units which understand that the knowledge of operating a weapon in conjunction with the myriad assortment of optics and lasers to their fullest extent employ SAMGs to help keep their operators current on these devices. Having a "go-to-guy" at the division, brigade, and battalion levels, who can supply the correct off-sets for bore-lighting the lasers, and who not only understands, but can teach how, to zero the optics correctly is an invaluable commodity in the combat arms arena.
In the United States infantry, small arms master gunners are experts in all aspects of the units weapon systems. The "weapon systems" range from the standard infantry rifle with optics and lasers, assigned machine guns and grenade launchers, with optics and lasers, as well as any specialized (sniper) weapons that may be fielded. The small arms master gunners fill advisory rather than command posts. They are trained to assist in the planning, development, execution, and evaluation of all weapon systems, to include crew served weapons related training (individual, crew, and collective), unit planning for ranges, and are able to resource needed materials for each piece of equipment.
In 2000 at Fort Benning, Georgia, the infantry schoolhouse saw the need to create a SAMG course that would get NCOs "smart" on the optics (namely the M-68) and lasers (namely the PEQ-4) being fielded during this time. A curriculum was created by the 2-29th, and NCOs from the 18th Airborne Corps (82nd ABN DIV, 101st ABN (ASSLT), and the 10th MTN DIV) attended. The schoolhouse lasted only a year and a half, but not due to lack of progress. As soon as a mechanized infantry sergeant major took over, the school, along with its resources, were abolished.
Fort Bragg seized the initiative and began its own course in 2001. This school taught small arms, as well as the Javelin. During this time, the army was being fielded optics and lasers in rapid succession, due to the events of 9/11. The course ran until optempo to Afghanistan and Iraq depleted the units on post, because every brigade was deployed; however by this time every battalion, brigade, and the division had their own dedicated small arms master gunners. Training remained at these levels until 2010.
In 2010, the Fort Bliss command sergeant major realized that the knowledge on weapons, optics, lasers, and now thermals, was virtually nonexistent. He noticed different companies within battalions were zeroing all their equipment differently. Soldiers did not know how to use their lasers or thermals, and there was no consistency on the installation. He appointed a 1st Armored Division small arms master gunner (a graduate of the Fort Bragg SAMG course) to create a curriculum that would put all his NCOs on the same page with the various equipment issued throughout his division. The Fort Bliss SAMG built a course that encompassed every weapon, laser, and optic used on Fort Bliss. There had to be many changes made to the course that the SAMG was building, versus the one he attended in 2001. This course also included an introduction to the many available training tools and resources that most Fort Bliss NCOs were unaware of. The SAMG partnered with industry and incorporated NAMMO talley defense, as well as insight technology (L-3) into the course, in order to effectively train NCOs on the equipment the correct way. Great strides were reached on Fort Bliss, and by 2012 the Fort Bliss Division SAMG was teaching a course once a quarter, running competitions on the installation, and was a "one-stop-shop" for anything small arms related. During this time, the Fort Bliss SAMG program had trained over 200 non-commissioned officers (as well as one captain). It had also shared its curriculum with the 25th ID, and the unit which originally spawned the SAMG course, 2-29 at Fort Benning GA. The Fort Bliss PCSM, who had originally appointed the Fort Bliss SAMG, left Fort Bliss in summer 2012. Fort Bliss' Command team (now a mechanized group) did not share the same enthusiasm for the lethality of the soldier on the ground and the Fort Bliss Small Arms Master Gunner Course disintegrated in February 2013, as the original Fort Bliss SAMG retired.
The small arms master gunner's specific duties; SME on all weapons in the unit which the SAMG operates. SME on all optics in the unit which the SAMG operates. SME on all lasers in the unit which the SAMG operates. SME on all thermal devices in the unit which the SAMG operates. SME on all laser range finders in the unit which the SAMG operates. Oversee the qualification, and sustainment training of all weapon systems. Assist the commander in a six-month training plan for ranges, ammo, and certification as per DIV GUNSOP and below. SME on available training resources. Supervise live-fire ranges to ensure SOPs are followed advise the commander of the tactical capabilities of all weapons and weapon systems.
Typical SAMG unit structure
- Division SAMG-enforces division standards, disseminates information to BDE SAMGs, assists BDE SAMGs in providing training and resources, provides a link to industry, as well as off post SAMGs.
- Brigade SAMG-works closely with the master gunners at lower echelons to ensure standards are uniform throughout the brigade, assists BN SAMGs in providing training, and resources.
- Battalion SAMG-enforces battalion standards, coordinates with the companies for training assets, checks on company training (PMI)
- Company SAMG-ensures battalion standards are followed, teaches preliminary marksmanship instruction, assists in troubleshooting and maintenance of weapons.