By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor
Learning about and firing small arms is a basic and fundamental
task for Soldiers. But Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bryan Wood said it is
much more than that.
Sgt. Rani Paul of the 408th
Personnel Services Battalion, N.Y., fires the MK-19 grenade
launcher at a Fort McCoy range. Also pictured are Fort McCoy
Team Eagle Instructor Kevin Jones (right) and Sgt. Curtis
Bolden, also of the 408th.
(Photo by Tom Michele)
"If you are carrying a weapon, those skills you possess
are the absolute most critical common denominator for every member of
the armed services in a combat arena," Wood said.
Wood is the officer-in-charge (OIC) of Detachment 4, Task Force
(TF) Small Arms Readiness Group (SARG), First Army, at Fort McCoy,
which supports the 181st Infantry Brigade. The brigade, with its four
training support battalions, trains mobilizing Soldiers in individual
and collective warrior tasks in preparation for deployment overseas.
"The help and support Task Force SARG receives from the
181st and its battalions in unison with Fort McCoy Garrison greatly
enhances our ability to train mobilizing Soldiers effectively,"
Wood said, as an example, the marksmanship skills taught by the
SARG, in his opinion, are as important as and complement other life
skills such as first aid and orienteering.
"The better we
can shoot and negate the threat, the less patching we will have to
do," he said.
"The most basic and fundamental thing for our Soldiers is
the proficiency and knowledge they have with their weapons no matter
what else they do with their military occupational specialty,"
Wood said. "A Soldier is first and foremost an individual weapons
platform to defend the Constitution, American people, sovereign
borders and national security of the United States."
"People who wear the uniform of the armed forces must be
competent in the use of their weapon," Wood said.
Wood said Soldiers are much better off and much better prepared
to go into combat after they have gone through the SARG training.
The weapons list includes the M-9 pistol, M-16 and M-4 assault
rifle, M-203 grenade launcher, M-500 shotgun, M-240 light machine gun,
M-249 squad automatic weapon, MK-19 machine-gun grenade launcher,
M-107 .50 caliber rifle and M-2 .50 caliber machine gun, and the
different day and night optics and lasers associated with these
"We have received comments from military servicemembers
who have gone through SARG training that it is the best weapons
training they have received," Wood said.
Detachment 4 has 15 Soldiers on its staff, 13 who have
completed at least one tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. All have
been through or are in the TF SARG weapons instructor basic course and
crew-served weapons instructor course at Camp Bullis, Texas. Many of
the instructors are competitive shooters wearing the Presidents
Hundred Tab with multiple local, state, national and international
championships to their credit.
"Our trainers are very experienced in rifle shooting,
coaching and training people," Wood said. "You don't have
that in a field manual." Wood explained there have been times in
Army history that Soldiers were simply handed a field manual and told
to learn the weapons system.
He did note that retention is good on the instructor staff,
much of that depending on how close they are to their families.
Four are from Wisconsin, three from Minnesota and one each from
Michigan, Idaho, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Massachusetts.
When Wood explains the importance of the SARG, he uses a quote
from President Theodore Roosevelt, from the president's last message
to Congress in 1908. Roosevelt said, "The first step, in the
direction of preparation to avert war if possible and to be fit for
war if it should come, is to teach men to shoot."
"But we learned our skills were poor and we had a lack of
true knowledge and experience when we entered World War II," Wood
said. "And it was the same in every war the United States has
been in, before and since. We have never truly learned to be properly
SARG was formed in 1995 as a mobile resource for Reserve units
for weekend weapons training instruction. There was a SARG element at
Fort McCoy in 2003 to 2005 for mobilization training. "When
former First Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré
‚ visited Fort McCoy last summer he asked where the SARG was.
It wasn't. He ordered that a SARG be in place within 30 days and
operational by the end of September."
SARG instructors are experts who have been trained to Army
standards, not just a Soldier given the task to do or to train other
Soldiers, Wood explained.
As an instructor, Wood said, "I can see a shooter make
mistakes, and I can correct them. You can't do that out of a field
manual. The manual is only an introduction to the basics. The shooter
must apply the learned basics and have a passion to do it right."
Task Force SARG was established in 2002 as a result of the
Global War on Terror.
The Army Reserve Shooting Teams along with the USARC Small Arms
Readiness Group became the core of instructors at the onset of
mobilizations to support the Force Projection Platforms, according to
Wood. Fort McCoy is one of nine First Army SARG "platforms"
located across the country. Wood, who has been at Fort McCoy since
March, has been with the Army's national rifle team most of his
military career. He enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1966 and became
involved in the rifle team in 1970. "It was because of my
involvement in the team that I re-enlisted."
"I love training Soldiers to shoot," Wood said.
"It's an important mission, job and challenge and it is rewarding
to see a Soldier achieve, particularly if they had to struggle to get
For more information about TF SARG, its structure and missions,
people may go to its Web page at http://www.first.army.mil/tfsarg/index.html.
(Michele is a public affairs specialist for
Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base