What I Wish I Knew as an MGS Commander
By Staff Sgt. Mario Rios-Alzaga
National Training Center, Fort Irwin
June 11, 2021
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This article serves as a basic guide for U.S. Army
noncommissioned officers (NCO) assigned to a
weapons troop within a Stryker Brigade Combat
Team (SBCT) operating the M1128 Mobile Gun
System (MGS), a highly mobile and lethal platform.
Due to its specialized nature, MGS commanders have
limited resources, therefore, it is important to share
experience regarding this platform and develop capabilities
The MGS is an eight-wheel, medium-armored
Stryker platform. The SBCT weapons troop contains
three MGS platoons and each platoon contains four
MGS for a troop total of twelve. The MGS platoon provides mounted, precision, and direct fire support
to SBCT rifle companies and cavalry troops. An MGS
platoon synchronizes its firepower and maneuver to
increase a rifle company or cavalry troop’s lethality
(Department of the Army, 2017).
The MGS does not have a specific dedicated Military
Occupational Specialty (MOS) for mechanics and
is instead assigned a 91S Stryker Systems Maintainer
(overall Stryker mechanic) trained in all Stryker variants,
but does not necessarily specialize in the MGS.
This means that mechanics need to learn all they can
from the civilian contractors responsible for higher
echelon maintenance. As good leaders, MGS commanders
should do the same as they take ownership of
their vehicles and their crew.
The MGS is armed with an M2 Heavy Barrel .50
caliber machine gun, M240 coaxial machine gun, and
the 105 mm cannon. It can fire four types of ammunition,
high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds, sabot
rounds, high explosive plastic (HEP-T) rounds, and
canister rounds (Department of the Army, 2017).
MGS commanders must understand each munition
and its effects because MGS platoons are routinely
attached to different companies and troops and should
be subject matter experts to properly support those
units. This includes advising units on MGS
strengths, limitations, and capabilities, as well as courses
of action to support different kinds of missions.
Effectively Employing the MGS
An MGS platoon can be organized and employed in
several ways but the three most common are MGS platoon
pure, Hybrid Plus (+), and Hybrid Minus (-) formations.
The pure formation means the platoon leader maneuvers the
MGS platoon either
under the weapons
troop commander or
attached to another
company. The weapons
Plus (+) and Hybrid
Minus (-) formations
incorporate the Anti-Tank Guided Missile
into the platoon. The
ATGM platform is
capable of firing the
weapon system 2A,
2B and “bunker buster”
(BB) missiles. The
2A missiles serve best against armor in urban environments
or where overhead fires are expected, 2B are useful against
heavy armor, and bunker busters are used against fortified
positions (Department of the Army, 2017).
MGS platoons will find themselves in the (+) or (-) formations
often. This means that in the (+) formation you
and one other MGS will work with two ATGM and fall
under either your platoon leader or the ATGM platoon
leader. In the (-) formation you and one other MGS will
work with one ATGM under either your platoon leader
or the ATGM platoon leader.
Many commanders do not understand MGS capabilities
and try to employ it like a tank. Doctrine clearly states that the MGS is not a tank and should not be used as one
(Department of the Army, 2017). The MGS is more comparable
to an assault gun, designed to provide direct fire
support for ground units against enemy infantry and fortified
positions. This type of support is specifically described
in doctrine and provides Stryker cavalry squadrons the
necessary firepower to accomplish reconnaissance and
security missions (Department of the Army, 2016a).
The MGS should be used similar to a Bradley Fighting
Vehicle without dismounts. It allows units to advance to
an objective by directing large-caliber, direct-fire precision
producing scalable effects (Department of the Army,
2017). A rifle company then secures the objective and
the MGS mounts a hasty defense, defeating maneuvering
forces at extended ranges.
MGS platoons may find themselves attached to
cavalry troops. Cavalry troop commanders are specifically
tasked with integrating enablers such as the MGS
(Department of the
Army, 2016b). Leaders
who conduct a
Center rotation understand
busy and may
not always know
how to fully integrate
the hybrid platoon
into the formation.
For this reason it is
important for MGS
commanders to be
involved in Troop
because they have
the best troop capability
cavalry troop commander may develop an outstanding
scheme of maneuver, but it means nothing if the MGS
platoon cannot support it. Most unit commanders prefer
MGS commanders to speak up during planning rather
than call on the radio explaining why they failed to successfully
maneuver at the allotted time.
Tips are from my personal experience as an MGS
- After zeroing the platform it is imperative to conduct
boresight procedures twice daily to ensure each round
is employed effectively and accurately.
- The MGS has comparable mobility to other Stryker variants; however, it is top-heavy and more susceptible
- Flat tires on this platform are common and can take
anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to replace.
- The MGS lacks a designated space to stow spare tires,
requiring another vehicle for supply.
The MGS is a fascinating vehicle and a great opportunity for NCOs to broaden their leadership skills
and combat effectiveness. This assignment requires
NCOs to grow and mature quickly because they are
considered subject matter experts. Unit commanders
expect competence and confidence and rely on MGS
commanders to effectively integrate with other units to
successfully complete the mission.
*Note: The U.S. Army plans to upgrade Stryker Brigades with the new Medium Caliber Weapon System, a 30mm, unmanned, turreted auto-cannon, by 2023 (U.S. Army Public Affairs, 2021)
Department of the Army. (2016a). Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-20.96: Cavalry Squadron. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ATP%203-20x96%20FINAL%20WEB.pdf
Department of the Army. (2016b). ATP 3-20.97: Cavalry Troop. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN13423_ATP%203-20.97%20FINAL%20WEB%201.pdf
Department of the Army. (2017). ATP 3-21.91: Stryker Brigade Combat Team Weapons Troop. https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/ARN3238_ATP%203-21x91%20FINAL%20WEB.pdf
U.S. Army Public Affairs. (2021). Army announces contract award for production of Stryker MCWS. Army.mil. https://www.army.mil/article/247193/army_announces_contract_award_for_production_of_stryker_mcws
Staff Sgt. Mario Rios-Alzaga is a U.S. Army Cavalry Scout currently serving as an observer, controller/trainer at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. He previously served as an MGS platoon sergeant and section leader in 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, and as a section leader in 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. He deployed in support of Operation New Dawn, Spartan Shield, and Combined Resolve III with 1-7 CAV and Operation Freedom's Sentinel with 2-1 CAV.
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