Fort McCoy News March 14, 2014

NMCB-25 keeps eyes downrange with weapons qualifications

STORY & PHOTO BY MC1 PATRICK GORDON
NMCB-25 Public Affairs

BILOXI, Miss. — Members of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Two Five (NMCB-25) have spent the past month cycling through M-9 pistol and M-4/M-16 rifle qualifications at the Naval Construction Group TWO Woolmarket Small Arms Range in Biloxi, Miss.

The qualifications are in preparation for an upcoming deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Photo for Seabees article
Construction Mechanic 2nd Class (SCW) Edson Felismino takes aim on the Naval Construction Group 2 M4/M16 qualification course in Woolmarket, Miss., Feb. 11. Members of NMCB-25 are performing weapons qualifications in preparation for a scheduled deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom later this year.

The weapons training is given to deploying personnel attached to a Navy Expeditionary Combat Command unit, such as NMCB-25. It involves classroom training on the fundamentals of marksmanship, weapons operations and weapon safety.

The qualifying members then are brought to the qualifying range and receive hands-on instruction from certified training personnel with the M-4 carbine, M-16 rifle and the M-9 pistol. For some, it is the first time in years they have handled a weapon, but the line coaches provide them with instruction to get the best results possible.

"The qualifying members get a coach that's there to help them on the line who will guide the individual should they need assistance with marksmanship," said Utilitiesman 1st Class Luis Alarcon, Woolmarket Small Arms Range leading petty officer.

"Often times, it's as simple as instructing them to adjust their trigger pull or breathing that will steady their aim and get the best results. We try to get them to shoot as well as they can while they're out here."

To qualify and earn the title of "marksman," NMCB-25 members had to score a minimum of 180 on the pistol range, and 140 on the rifle range, with higher scores putting the qualifying members in categories such as "sharpshooter" and "expert."

Qualifying and scoring highly are important, however, the course does more than gauge how well an individual can shoot, said Alarcon."Well, as far as the weapons qualifications, there aren't too many scenarios overseas where target engagement is going to be like the range," said Alarcon.

"So, in my opinion, the biggest thing I would think is the confidence that comes from being able to qualify and handle that weapon; not so much a comfort, but a competence and confidence in your ability, the weapon's ability and what you can do with it."

Alarcon added some NMCB-25 members who are expected to be more tactically engaged receive further instruction in the enhanced combat marksmanship (ECM) course.

The ECM course trains rapid target acquisition and engagement in a more high-speed environment, similar to that of an active combat zone.

"ECM involves shooters wearing all of their gear — SAPI (Small Arms Protective Insert) plates, Kevlar, mag pouches — as they would overseas," said Alarcon. "It's different than the qualification range, because it isn't really range qualification marksmanship. We're not trying to build snipers in this program."

Instead, there's a lot more snap-shooting — "snapping" the weapon to your shoulder and rapidly engaging a target, Alarcon said.
"We try to build that muscle memory so the Sailor can turn to engage the threat properly, be able to speed reload, or do an immediate action to clear a weapon if they need to. We want to make sure they're prepared for engaging targets in an operational environment."

The training was appreciated by members of NMCB-25 for what it did to prepare them for service in a tactical environment. Engineman 1st Class (SW) Glen Cutshaw, of NMCB-25, qualified on the ECM course and said it gave him greater confidence in his weapon handling abilities.

"We worked with the M-4, qualified after dark wearing dark lenses, so that was a unique experience, and I certainly do believe this training set us up for success downrange," said Cutshaw.

"If you can learn to hit targets after dark with sunglasses on in a high tempo situation, you're going to be deadly accurate. It was a very good class with very good instructors."

Enthusiasm for training was echoed by others in NMCB-25 and noticed by the trainers, who welcomed the battalion's willingness to learn.

"What I see from NMCB-25, like just about every Reserve battalion that comes through here, is that they are engaged in the process, and show an eagerness to learn," said Alarcon.

"For the active-duty members who come through here, this is their full time job. But for Reservists, this isn't their everyday job; they're taking time out of a career and a life in the civilian world to train on weapons that they may not have touched in a year, two years, or more, so they really want to learn. They want to know the techniques inside and out so they can be better at what they do. The Reserve component members come ready with that eagerness to learn, and it really makes a difference, especially to the instructors."

NMCB-25 is a battalion of the Naval Construction Force. It is a routinely deployable unit, standing ready to provide construction support for Navy, Marine Corps and other organizations. To be prepared, these Reservists train in both technical and tactical skills. The primary focus of the Reserve units during their active training time is readiness training, and the maintenance and repair of fleet activities.