Night Fire

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Wendy S. Ohl
  • 185ARW/PA
Just as dusk starts turning to dark, standing in a dusty field at Fort Harrison, MT, Security Forces from the 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) began practicing their night firing capabilities. With the sun down, the temperature drops quickly, but the wind has died down considerably from earlier in the day. An occasional flare lights the night sky, giving the terrain an early sunrise-like quality as they slowly burn out and fall to the earth, leaving the night again in total darkness. As the troops take their turns at the M-240 and M-249 machine guns, red tracers skip across the grass covered slopes in front of them or fly through the air finding their target. Each member expends their allotted ammunition then quickly relinquishes the weapon to the person waiting safely behind them.

The sharp "da-da-da-dun" of the machine guns, peppered with the hiss and pop of the flares fills the night air, sounding almost like fireworks in a Fourth of July show. The softer single-shot pop of the M-9 mingled with the M-4 sounds like Black Cat firecrackers going off. Silhouettes in the dark shoot at targets difficult to see, and anxious troops await their turn. Excited voices cheer on the shooters as they take their turn. An occasional "cease fire" is called so Range Control can put out a fire caused by the flares.

It almost has the feel of a summer camp night but with groups of men and women in uniform standing around kicking up dust and joking about how good or bad they did, issuing challenges to their buddies. There is a feeling of camaraderie tonight. After three solid days of training together, they are learning to depend on each other, to rely on each other, to trust each other. Something that is very important for Security Forces when they deploy. Knowing that the man or woman with the gun next to you will have your back in an emergency or crisis can effectively save your life, and theirs.

"We have an influx of young troops coming in that haven't deployed, and don't know what it's like to be in that type of situation. This training will give them a sense of what it's like and how to handle themselves when they are deployed." stated Lt. Roger Howard, commander of Security Forces at the 185th ARW. "We're lucky to have the experience and knowledge of seasoned troops to teach them who have been overseas and know what it's like."

With over 50 percent of the nearly 100 members of Security Forces having real-life experience overseas, there is a lot of knowledge from which they can learn. There is a fairly steady turnover in this career field, and much of that can be contributed to the many deployments with which they are tasked. It makes it hard on their families and on their civilian employers to have them gone for six months at a time. Some people just can't take it. Circumstances change and being gone for extended periods of time can become a hardship.

"So what do you think?" asks one of the Security Forces members in the darkness as we watch the activities. I must admit it's one of the most impressive sights I've seen in a long time. It makes me proud to be a part of this unit, a part of the 185th Air Refueling Wing. Proud to be attached to a group of professional men and women led by experienced and confident men that have been there and know what they're doing. It gives me a whole new appreciation of my way of life and the people who are out there defending and protecting it.

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