Last week was the week our unit was split up and sent off to learn their particular job with all the other soldiers from the other companies with the same job. In other words, all the magists were joined together. We sat in a class room learning the intricacies of the Mag, things that weren’t covered in the general lesson given long ago that everyone was required to take. The information learned there, and the rest of the week would be required knowledge for an exam at the end of the week.
As it turns out, I’m not simply a guy who carries and fires a machine gun that belongs on a vehicle. You see, every Mag is operated by two people, a trigger man and a commander. I get to decide where we go and what positions to take which of course comes with the responsibility to navigate. I get to decide when, and at what, we fire. That also comes with the responsibility to know when to stop firing.
Once we are in position, and the weapon is ready to fire, I’ll give orders relating to the weapon from clean the barrel to cock the gun. In this, my usual responsibility is to place the ammo in the chamber and in the event of a serious gun jam – help clear it. And of course to monitor the fire and give appropriate adjustment orders for accurate hits. In training, we switch jobs so that everyone has extensive experience carrying and firing the weapon.
After two days in the shooting range, we were put on a bus and sent off to a field farther away. There, we set up on a hill and fired at targets from 300-500 meters away. At the end of practicing the various scenarios they wanted us to pass, we took a field test. It begins with a ten meter crawl with the gun and its various accessories and a 100 meter run up a steep rocky hill with all the items. If you count the 100 meters it takes to come back, 200 meters in total.
Then the stand for the machine gun must be set-up, the gun placed securely, and targets must be hit accurately. To do all this we were given five minutes from start to finish. As the commander, it was my job to draw our targets on a piece of paper with lines that delineate their location and distance from us. After picking out some targets, we gave them code names that only we would understand. This bush will be “Yaakov” that bush will be “America”, etc etc.
My trigger man gets nervous when it comes time to shoot, especially if he is being timed. I don’t like to see him feeling nervous. I think part of what makes him nervous is having a new immigrant for a commander, mainly because my Hebrew is nowhere near the fluency of a native. His fear is misplaced, but that’s something I can only hope he will understand in time. Part of my responsibility as a commander will have to be to figure out how to keep him feeling serene, including making sure my Hebrew is up to par.
I expect only the feeling of serenity from someone with a trigger. It clears the mind, and it means less mistakes. Though to his credit, he hasn’t made any mistakes, and passes every test with the weapon just fine. Probably he is nervous because he keeps going over what he is supposed to do next. That will go away as the weapon becomes more second nature to him.
My commander felt that by the end of the week, after firing the weapon, that I would like being stuck with it. When we returned from the field, my commander saw me and asked “how was shooting it?”. To which I gave a non-chalant hand gesture of “so-so”. He raised his voice as he walked away and said with a tone that implied I couldn’t be helped: “What!??” I still don’t know why he was angry, I should be the angry one.
I’ll admit, it was fun firing the Mag while standing up. It was very much like something I might have seen Arnold Schwarzenegger do in a movie. But you just can’t maneuver with a Mag the same way as with an assault rifle. That’s another reason I prefer being the commander of our pair rather than the trigger man. The commander, unlike the trigger man, keeps his M16 on him.
At least I know I have a weapon I can maneuver with. That at any moment I can turn a corner, drop, jump, and all with a weapon aimed accurately at my target. You can’t do that with a machine gun. Put simply, I would prefer to be on my own, with a smaller weapon.
Now I start Advanced training. What do we do in Advanced Training? This: