Dagger Gauntlet training concludes with booming tank blasts at Fort Riley

Capt. William Parrott participates in a training exercise in a module that replicates the control room of a Bradley fighting vehicle.

Fort Riley soldiers have been participating in some heavy tank training, which was capped off with a live-fire training exercise Tuesday.

The Dagger Gauntlet — the 1st Infantry Division’s training event that prepares soldiers to use M1A2 Abrams and Bradley fighting vehicles — began Jan. 3, and concluded Tuesday with the Danger Shootout. The Dagger Gauntlet prepares more than 4,000 of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team soldiers for battle situations.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Kelley monitored Tuesday’s live shooting exercise from the Range 18 Scout Recce tower. Soldiers fire at targets, while their scores are recorded during the exercise, Kelley said.

“They train to be a qualified crew and be considered ready to deploy,” Kelley said.

The 120mm rounds fired from the Abrams tanks’ smoothbore cannon can be heard in neighboring communities, including Junction City, Ogden and Manhattan. The rounds can be heard fairly clearly if cloud coverage conditions provide an echo effect.

“A lot depends on the weather conditions as to whether you hear it,” Kelley said.

Cpl. Luke Koch participated in his first gunnery experience during the training period. He said firing the Bradley’s gun doesn’t affect him as much physically as it does mentally.

“You don’t really feel it too much, but your heart kind of beats fast,” Koch said. “I get a rush.”

The inclement weather conditions Tuesday provided some extra challenges for the soldiers.

“With all the fog, it messes up our vision,” Koch said. “It’s a lot harder on us, but trains us even further.”

The Dagger Gauntlet combines live training with computer-based simulations, which include a unique communication system. Soldiers can also participate in virtual reality programs, which replicate the control rooms of tanks. Capt. Sam Fujinaka — a future operations officer who works in exercise control — works closely with soldiers using computer-based programs.

“Our job is to make it work, and make it feel real,” Fujinaka said.

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