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The door is open

By 1st Lt. Luis Sánchez
First published in
SFOR Informer#121, September 5, 2001

About 60 soldiers from the German Battle Group performed the third door-shooting course of this year, Aug. 20-21, which ended with a live-fire exercise in Glamoc range on Aug. 24. The goal of the course was training helicopter gunners to provide security in difficult situations.

Glamoc/Rajlovac - In basic training soldiers need to learn to react quickly in dangerous situations. The right action could save their own lives and those of other soldiers. One possibility is when moving by helicopter, they become vulnerable in that a simple sniper could cause a serious problem. For self- protection the German choppers in Rajlovac, carry machine guns (MG 42 calibre 7.62) operated by the crew.
About 60 troops finished the door-shooting course as part of a training programme for German soldiers posted abroad. There were not only personnel attached to the Army Aviation unit (Heeresfliegerstaffel) taking part, but also personnel from the whole contingent: Military Police, Engineers Squadron, Supply Unit, Field Hospital and Medical staff, CIMIC and Headquarters. A Federation Army crew also joined the shooting. The gunner course started with two days of theory classes and practices, and finished with a live-fire exercise.
Capt. Michael Maly, commanding officer of the exercise, stated: "The goal of this course is to train people as helicopter door-gunners as it is necessary in difficult missions; self-protection, security on landing zone, etc. We have the same training in Germany." There, they do not have the opportunity to fire, but in BiH they go to Glamoc every two months to practice.
The preparation
In the morning heaps of rucksacks waited on the helipad for the first wave. Everything was prepared, the doctor checked his equipment, and one of the crew verified the passenger list and made the final arrangements. The ammunition convoy had departed the day before. Meanwhile, "Lili" and "Marlene"(as the German choppers are called, a CH-53 and a 1H-1D) were waiting.
1st Lt. Karl-Heinz Butscher, safety fire exercise officer, explained: "We take a lot of safety measures. A medical team is ready, everybody has received a first aid course before and if something serious happens the MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) helicopter will be on the spot within 30 minutes."
The exercise
Once in place, the new gunners were instructed. In real time it is paramount that before shooting, the aircraft doors are opened so that the crewman in charge shouts twice "Tuer auf" (the door is open) and then it is over to the gunner. Soon Lili and Marlene started to dance over the range spitting out bursts of fire at the targets.
Although the soldiers enjoyed it, the exercise was not a game. For the most part, it was the first time for some of the shooters. They appreciated it because it provided the only chance of real fire during their tour and broke the daily routine. "It was really good. When the helicopter turns, you can see the ground while shooting, great! I'm a technician and only in SFOR have I received this training," said Staff Sgt. Mike Flinsch.
Staff Sgt. Nina Gabriel, one of the medical staff attached to the Field Hospital, was the only woman in the exercise and according to statistics, the first female door-gunner. Afterwards, she commented: "It makes no difference as a woman. It is a very good feeling, while shooting you feel nothing. The emotions come later."
The guests
Among the gunners were three special guests from an Air Force helicopter crew of the Federation Army (VF). 1st Lt. Fadil Ramic, Mi-17 Hip H helicopter pilot, said: "This is the first time we have joined SFOR troops for training and also the first time we shoot from a helicopter. For us it is very important. We have the same (in reference to 1H-1D) and could learn with this kind of material."
After several hours, ammunition was consumed and it was time to return to Rajlovac. As the Army Aviation Unit's motto says: "We always come back," very soon German helicopters will be training again in Glamoc Range. For the 60 new gunners, from now on, "the door is open" to provide protection in SFOR missions if needed.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Germany
Training and Exercises