[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                         July 11, 2008

SARG team members help Soldiers 
master small-arms marksmanship

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.

Photo: 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)
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.

      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 weapons systems.

      "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 prepared."

      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 through it."

      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 Services.)


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