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August 13, 2010


Weapons qualification important part of training for Soldiers

Story & photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems & Services

Hitting the bull’s-eye on the target on the Fort McCoy firing range is critical to Soldiers preparing to deploy to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Calvin Marcellis, who is with Team Eagle Systems and is one of the officers-in-charge (OIC) on Fort McCoy’s live-fire ranges, said weapons qualification during the mobilization process builds the Soldiers’ confidence in their weapons system.

“Weapons qualification training builds the abilities for the Soldier to use those systems,” he said.

Fort McCoy Range Safety Officer Dan Meseberg, rear, assists Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daryl Nelson analyze Nelson’s paper target following Nelson’s sighting firing with the M4 rifle. Photo by Tom Michele
Fort McCoy Range Safety Officer Dan Meseberg, rear, assists Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daryl Nelson analyze Nelson’s paper target following Nelson’s sighting firing with the M4 rifle.

That also includes the Airmen and Sailors preparing to deploy and integrate into the Army as a manpower assist.

“The instructor-trainer’s part on the live-fire range is to advocate four basic fundamentals,” Marcellis said. “Get the sight picture and sight alignment with the weapon to the target, adjust your body to a steady position, maintain good breathing posture, then make a slow, steady, methodical trigger squeeze.”

“When the shooter gets those basics, qualifying gets easier and they become better marksmen,” Marcellis said. “As an OIC, I am responsible for upholding the Army standards and overall operation of the firing range.”

Range Safety Officer Dan Meseberg, one of the individual instructors on the firing line with the individual shooters, further explained what a shooter must concentrate on.

“The shooter needs to place the rifle butt properly against their shoulder,” Meseberg said, “Particularly when they are wearing the outer protective vest.”

“Even the shooter’s Kevlar helmet can jam against the back collar of the vest and push the helmet slightly over their eyes. That of course causes sight problems. Proper placement of the shooter’s cheek to the weapon’s stock well also is important to get and keep that sight pattern.”

“Once the shooter gets the weapon’s sights on the target, then their breathing is a very important aspect of hitting the target,” Meseberg said.

“The shooter must learn to squeeze the trigger in the same spot as they exhale,” Meseberg said. “If the shooter is not sighted exactly on target as they are set to squeeze the trigger on their exhalation, they must wait to squeeze the trigger on their next exhalation.”

To qualify with the basic M16/M4 rifle the shooter first must get five of six rounds in a four-centimeter circle at 25 yards on the zero range. Then the shooter moves to the qualification range where they must score 23 or more rounds, out of 40 fired, engaging targets from 50 to 300 meters, in prone and kneeling positions.

Weapons qualification also includes more than one weapon for some personnel, such as the M9 pistol, M203 grenade launcher, M249 squad automatic weapon, M240 light machine gun, M2 heavy machine gun and MK19 grenade machine gun. Qualification standards vary significantly with weapons systems.

A major aspect of the weapons qualification task is the pre-marksmanship training, or PMT, class. PMT normally is conducted in a classroom setting before Soldiers go to the live-fire ranges.

PMT addresses the fundamentals of handling a weapon, according to Master Sgt. Daniel Sorenson, lanes team noncommissioned officer-in-charge at the 1/340th Training Support Battalion of the 181st Infantry Brigade. The 181st conducts the mobilization training at Fort McCoy.

“The focus of PMT is for the Soldier, Airman and Sailor to be proficient with the weapon,” Sorenson said. “Being in the ‘armed’ forces is to be armed, to protect yourself and your fellow Soldiers and equipment and ensure you survive on the battlefield. Force protection is a primary part of a Soldier’s mission. Even in offense, it’s still force protection that starts with the basic fundamentals of marksmanship.”

PMT includes disassembly of a weapon into its major basic parts, inspection of the parts to ensure they are serviceable, reassembly and a functions check to make sure it operates properly, Sorenson explained.
Sorenson added, “Proper safety procedures are first and foremost.

Tactics, techniques and procedures, and even weapons systems and their components, change, but the basic fundamentals of pre-marksmanship and weapons training stay the same.”

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