Reserve Avengers drive into action

27 Sep 2004 | Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

Even with all the capabilities and technology the military possesses, combat during hours of darkness in a war zone can still be extremely difficult.Even when the mission is a routine patrol, it is imperative that Marines are able to see what is in front of them at night.That is why reservists here from 4th Low-Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Security Battalion, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, uses the "Avenger" anti-aircraft weapons system and its night-vision technologies to assist the troops at night.Armed with a forward-looking infrared camera (FLIR), the Avenger is capable of seeing much further through dark conditions than night vision goggles.Currently augmenting the Quick Reaction Force, 4th LAAD Bn., the Avenger platoon goes out on evening patrols to provide nightly reconnaissance support."We can see extremely far and clear with the FLIR," said Marietta, Ga., native Cpl. James E. Godfrey, LAAD gunner, Avenger Platoon. "In a way, we're the eyes for the Marines around us."A fulltime student at Georgia Southern University, this reservist is pursuing a degree in communications and broadcasting and has been working with the Avengers for four years."With (the FLIR) technology," added the 22-year-old, "we can take out the enemy before we're even within range of their weapons."Although the Avenger provides the QRF with a tactical advantage, ground patrols wasn't what it was originally intended to be used for. "The Avenger is capable of holding eight Stinger missiles when fully loaded and was primarily tasked with defending ground troops from low-altitude aerial attacks," said Johnsboro, Ga., native Staff Sgt. Lavictor B. Freeman, platoon sergeant, Avenger Platoon. "With no air threat from the enemy out here, we really don't have a need to use the (Stinger missiles)," added the reservist who worked security in Atlanta night clubs, as well as owned and operated a car stereo shop, before being activated.Missiles aren't the only type of firepower the Avenger is packing. It also comes equipped with a M-3P .50 caliber machine gun that brings a powerful punch to the battlefield."The M-3P fires faster than the traditional M-2, and is hooked up to a computer that automatically adjusts for wind and elevation," said Godfrey. "Every shot hits its target." Uniquely designed for a HMMWV, the gunner's seat for an Avenger is mounted on the back of the vehicle inside of a turret capable of rotating 360 degrees."The turret rotates pretty fast so that we can quickly lock on to (enemy targets)," said San Jose, Calif., native Staff Sgt. James M. Fender, Avenger systems maintainer, Avenger Platoon. "It's designed to hit moving targets, so the computer stays locked on the target even while the turret is moving."The Avenger's turret is also designed to provide protection from the harsh desert heat, as well as the danger of enemy fire."There's actually an air conditioning unit built in to keep the gunner cool," said the 28-year-old. "We also have a remote control unit (that allows the Avenger crewmen to operate the turret from a safe distance) so that we won't be killed if the (vehicle) gets fired on."Working for Pacific Architectural System Corp. in San Dimas, Calif., as a field service technician, Fender's job as a reservist corresponds to his job in the military."(As a reservist) I work with a lot of electronics and mechanics," said Fender, "and that's the same stuff I do on the Avenger."According to Freeman, the Avenger is a deadly foe to meet on the battlefield and is a significant addition to the base's security.