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Face of Defense: Gunnery Sergeant Keeps Enemy at Bay

By Army Pfc. Elizabeth Raney
Special to American Forces Press Service

NURESTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 17, 2009 – When there’s an attack on Forward Operating Base Kalagush here, someone must be on hand to react and fire back.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Cory J. Cummings, a gunnery sergeant, looks through the scope of a mortar tube to check the azimuth during daily operations at Forward Operating Base Kalagush in Afghanistan’s Nurestan province, July 5, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Elizabeth Raney

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

That’s the job of Army Staff Sgt. Cory J. Cummings, the gunnery sergeant for Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Steel.

Cummings said 9/11 and a family history of military service inspired him to join the Army in 2002. He chose field artillery because of his father.

“When I was young, my dad took me to Civil War re-enactments,” said Cummings, a native of Birmingham, Ala. “He was the gunnery sergeant for the artillery line. I always thought it was cool. That’s where my interest for artillery came in.”

As the gunnery sergeant, Cummings has a long list of tasks and responsibilities. In addition to taking care of his 19 soldiers, he also must ensure the equipment is always up to par, he said.

“Every morning, I go to the fire base to make sure the guns have been laid and check on maintenance and ammunition,” Cummings said.

Position improvement has been a priority lately, he added. “We’re taking something that the previous unit had established and making it better,” he said.

Cummings said the best part of his job is mentoring soldiers.

“When the [forward operating base] takes incoming, and the sirens go off -- the gun line, the mortar team -- we all run out and get on the mortar and gun for a counter-fire mission,” Cummings said.

“That’s the combat side of artillery,” he added. “We’re on the [forward operating base] standing beside our guns when incoming comes down.”

Cummings describes his job as mission essential.

“In order for the enemy to think that they can be touched, we need to be here,” he said. “At a moment’s notice, we can reach out and touch them.

“That’s the benefit of artillery; that’s the importance of it being here,” he said. “There’s no threat to them if we’re not here.”

(Army Pfc. Elizabeth Raney serves in 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

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