CAMP MORGAN, Bosnia and Herzegovina -- Back in Minnesota, Sgt. Joe Winters of Little Falls is a gunner on one of the 2nd Battalion, 194th Armor's 67-ton M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks.
Here at this U.S. outpost north of Tuzla, this former Marine is an assistant gunner on a whole different animal -- an armored Humvee weighing less than four tons.
Winters is among about 1,100 Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers, mostly of the 34th Infantry Division based in Rosemount, deployed to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Forge as Stabilization Force 14.
Winters, who has been in the Guard seven years, said there really is no comparison in the vehicles.
"Actually, you can see a lot more around you," he said of being in the Humvee's turret. "You can see 360 degrees."
Winters, and gunners like him, have plenty of opportunities to observe everything around them. Several Humvees make daily presence patrols around the camp's area of responsibility. These mounted patrols, where the gunner in the lead vehicle faces forward and the gunner in the rear vehicle faces backward, drive around cities in Bosnia to show a SFOR presence.
The gunner sits in a swing-like chair in the hatch of the Humvee. He is able to turn completely around.
Winters said being an assistant gunner is a fun job.
"You can wave at all the kids," he said with a smile.
Being exposed to the elements does have its drawbacks, especially during the winter. During cold weather, the gunners will switch about every half hour.
The biting cold isn't the only drawback. Sgt. John Eggers, a fellow gunner, said it is difficult to hear the Humvee driver or passengers while he is in the hatch. He said sometimes his leg has to be tapped by one of the soldiers to get his attention.
"For the most part, you're kind of on your own," he said.
But being on their own isn't all that bad. It allows them to focus all their attention on what is happening outside the vehicle.
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