A Sqn Gun Camp 26 Feb – 03 Mar 06

By: Tpr K.J. Goodmanson-Morris
March 2006

After seven weeks of long days in the classroom and many hours in the simulators, we were finally ready for what every armoured soldier dreams of: our first gun camp as actual GUNNERS! With our course officer (Second Lieutenant Joseph Boates) ensuring we were all aware of which way was “down” range, our DS (Warrant Officer John Kelly, Sergeant Doug Paquette, Master Corporal Rich Allen, Master Corporal Alex Graf, Master Corporal Richard Sherran and Corporal Gerri Anne Davidson) and crew commanders oversaw our turret drills and began instilling motivation into us as we prepped to fire our first rounds down range. It was a grand sight with the Leopards to the right of the firing pad and the Coyotes lined up to our left, all ready to launch a barrage of rounds at the targets to our front. We were ready.

The first sonic boom of a training sabot being launched via remote firing made all the new guys jump while bringing expected grins to those of us that would soon be firing them ourselves. Weather played a major factor through the variety of shoots as we saw wind constantly pick up and then die down, the temperature drop (and then drop some more…), and then the snow started falling hindering visual acuity. This, in hindsight, was excellent to experience as it allowed us to gain real firing experience in less than desirable conditions – something all eventually face in modern combat. Truly, our skills gained by our long hours in the sims were to be put to the test that week.

The shoots themselves proved a valuable learning experience. We started on the loader’s side, watching the recoil of the gun followed by ripping another round out of the rack and ramming it home in the breach, once again seeing this magnificent weapon let loose at another target. Switching to the gunner position has to be one of the most exiting events in our lives, and nothing gets your adrenaline pumping so much as the word “CONTACT!” as we perform our now automatic reactions, just waiting to hear that beautiful word, “FIRE!” and screaming back “FIRING NOW!” as the gun is sent into yet another recoil and the tank rocks as our targets sit out there collecting holes and seeing sparks fly everywhere from the hard targets. The smoke and dust fly, and at night, the effects of a sabot literally blind us.

We had the opportunity to engage a variety of targets, at times using thermal imagery (through the snow and on our night shoot) and were finally able to apply our endless hours of studying that got us on the range. You always knew who had just fired by the smile on their face, the excited tone of their voice and the gestures they displayed while passing on their experience to fellow peers.

One of our most exiting experiences was launching our rounds at the targets while on the move. Our “stab runs” proved to be the highlight of the week, as we all got the chance to both load and gun on the move. It was a rush to feel the tank rock from not only firing, but moving as well while in the loader position as we fought to keep balance and maintain the momentum of the battle by getting the rounds in the breach as fast as possible.

The gun camp from 26 Feb – 03 Mar will definitely be with us for the rest of our lives, and we all feel pride when referred to as a Gunner or a Loader. I only heard one question asked by all involved: “Can we have some more rounds?…Please?…