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Fort Sill trains new master gunners

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FORT SILL, Okla._Fort Sill trains thousands of soldiers every year but this month, only three across the country have come to Fort Sill in hopes of proving they are true masters of their craft.

The latest class of Avenger Master Gunner hopefuls is set to receive their certification next week. By learning these specific skills, these select soldiers hope to bring new capabilities to their units and launch their career to new heights in the process.

Sergeant Savannah Huelsman says serving the State of Ohio as a member of the National Guard is among one of her proudest achievements. But for the past two months, she's been at Fort Sill to not only learn the ropes of Advanced Air Defense Artillery, but to stand out in the crowd.

"It's my first time at Fort Sill in general so it's definitely been an eye opener. Being a female doing it, it's unheard of," said Sgt. Huelsman.

The early Monday morning brought Avenger machine guns to life, equipment reserved to shoot at both air and ground targets during a time of crisis. And that machinery requires skills that aren't for the faint of heart.

"We become subject matter experts that basically are the commander's experts in the weapons system," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Kagan, Senior Instructor, Master Gunnery Course.

"When you're considered the subject matter expert, you need to know everything about the system, it's a lot of pressure, but that's what this course is designed to do is to make you deal with under pressure situations," said Sgt. Huelsman.

The program is so elite nationwide, only three soldiers are stepping out onto the range as candidates for credentials that will remain with them for a lifetime.

"It is the epitome of the Air Defense world is to be a master gunner. I trust that these soldiers are trained at the highest standards and they'll get out and be able to do good things for their units when they get out there," said Sgt. 1st Class Kagan.

"It's a good honor, for somebody to know that they can rely on you with something like that and to feel that they have that much trust in you to make those kind of decisions, it's a good pat on the back," said Sgt. Huelsman.

"It makes you feel a whole lot more prepared knowing the system so that you don't have to rely on so many people," said Sgt. 1st Class Kagan.

Soldiers in the Master Gunnery program say they plan on using the skills they've learned at Fort Sill to teach their own units in other parts of the country. The program will begin training a brand new class on post this July.

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