Kirkuk, Iraq – Secretary of the Army, the Hon. Dr. Francis Harvey, visited Forward Operating Base Warrior in order to visit with Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division and gain first-hand knowledge of their quality of life.
Bastogne Soldiers took advantage of the opportunity to showcase several innovations in equipment and tactics that they have developed and are using in the area of operation.
The simplest, but maybe most impressive innovation, came in the form of a simple piece of sheet metal attached to the Mark 93 M2 combination machine gun.
“All it does is take a problem in the design and creates a solution for it,” explained Sgt. Andrew S. Chard, of B Company, 426th Brigade Support Battalion and Hudson Falls, N.Y., native. “It’s a simple piece of sheet metal that guides the links from getting caught between the mount and the gun to the outside of the mount where they drop freely.”
Chard experienced the problem with the links catching and jamming the machine gun while he was part of a gun team during the first four months he was here. During convoys to the outlying bases near Warrior, Chard noticed that the links on the .50 caliber machine guns were jamming during test fires, and that the links were catching instead of falling away. That’s when he decided to look into the problem.
“One day I got a hold of a .50 cal and a mount,” Chard explained. “I mounted it up, took a quick measurement to see what the distance was from the weapon to the outside of the mount, got some scrap sheet metal from our service and recovery section, and then just took a pair tin snips and cut it out.”
The simple snip and cut has worked so well that Chard’s device has already been authorized for use in the 1st Brigade Combat Team’s area of operation, and the brigade has placed an order for 250 more link deflectors.
Chard’s idea has also been forwarded to the Army’s Smart Ideas program, allowing Chard’s device to be implemented throughout the military.
Chard believes that despite the simplistic design, the device will improve the performance of fellow Soldiers who use it.
“It just keeps the gunner’s eye on the target he’s engaging and doesn’t have to worry about the links piling up and jamming the weapon,” Chard said. “The impact is immeasurable, because, if you save one person’s life with something, there’s no monetary value you can put on it…”