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Spc. Jeremy Lentz preparing to shoot the Mark 19 grenade launcher in Warrior Valley on Thursday.
Spc. Jeremy Lentz preparing to shoot the Mark 19 grenade launcher in Warrior Valley on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Spc. Jeremy Lentz preparing to shoot the Mark 19 grenade launcher in Warrior Valley on Thursday.
Spc. Jeremy Lentz preparing to shoot the Mark 19 grenade launcher in Warrior Valley on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Pfc. Kelly Stewart fires a machinegun atop an HMMWV in Warrior Valley on Thursday.
Pfc. Kelly Stewart fires a machinegun atop an HMMWV in Warrior Valley on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Pfc. Kelly Stewart mans the machinegun atop an HMMWV approaching its firing position in Warrior Valley on Thursday.
Pfc. Kelly Stewart mans the machinegun atop an HMMWV approaching its firing position in Warrior Valley on Thursday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

WARRIOR VALLEY, South Korea — U.S. Army scouts don’t set out to attack the enemy directly, but if they come under fire, they can hit back hard with .50-caliber machine guns and MK-19 grenade launchers.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment’s scout platoon put those weapons through their paces Thursday at Warrior Valley.

The platoon has 30 scouts and 10 Humveees — five with roof-mounted machine guns and five with roof-mounted grenade launchers. The scouts have been serving the U.S. Army since the frontier days, when mountain men and American Indians guided troops across the plains and through the mountains.

The job of 2-9 scouts is to patrol ahead of the battalion and collect information about such things as enemy-infiltration routes and hard points.

During the Warrior Valley gunnery exercises, three-man scout teams took turns on the range.

Vehicle commanders received reports of enemy troop and vehicle movements over their radios, and then relayed instructions to drivers and gunners.

When a scout’s Humvee approached its firing position, pop-up and moving targets appeared in the valley. Pfc. Kelly Stewart, the gunner, sent bursts of fire downrange, kicking up dust behind the wooden targets.

When the shooting stopped, Stewart said he felt like he was slightly off target, “but I was using someone else’s .50-cal and hadn’t fired one since basic [training] a year and a half ago.”

Each .50-cal is different, he added, and gunners like to set up the weapon’s sights to suit themselves.

When Stewart fires the big gun, he said he feels more powerful than when he’s shooting an ordinary M-16 rifle.

“The .50-cal is mostly for vehicles, but if we are getting to where there is a lot of enemy coming at us, we are going to use it. If it hit a person, it would rip them in half,” he said.

He said the .50-cal’s loud noise doesn’t bother him because he’s almost deaf from going to rock concerts.

“It is about the same as standing next to the speakers at a rock concert,” said Stewart, of Virginia Beach, Va.

Nearby, Spc. Jeremy Lentz was preparing to shoot the MK-19, which has a basket attached to it that looks like the sort of device that might feed baseballs into a batting machine. The basket holds up to 30 grenades, which are sucked into the MK-19 before they’re fired.

“It is used for laying down cover. I like it more than the .50-cal. It goes further and it is more accurate than throwing,” he said.

1st Lt. Robert Fields, the Scout Platoon leader, said the gunnery training is timed. All enemy targets must be hit within a set time limit, and the training includes day and night shoots.

“The scouts are usually the most forward-deployed and get eyes on the enemy and relay that to the battalion commander,” he said. “Because we are out in front of everybody, our job is not to engage the enemy with our weapons. We call in indirect fire from mortars or field artillery to kill the enemy.”

Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Citrin, who is 2-9’s senior scout and platoon sergeant, said a good scout should know how to call in indirect fire, and locate the enemy without getting compromised.

“All we use the .50-cal for is to break contact,” he said. “We do not use it as a primary weapons system. It’s the same with the MK-19.

“We just suppress the enemy and get out of there. If we lose a team or a scout platoon, it affects the battalion.”

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