Fort McCoy News September 12, 2014

Reserve Soldiers build marksmanship skills at McCoy

85th Support Command

FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to the 85th Support Command, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. — 25 miles northwest of Chicago — conducted individual weapons qualification on the M-9 pistol and M-16 rifle ranges during a four-day field training exercise here in August.

Photo for M16 article
Staff Sgt. Charles Spears, 85th Support Command Surgeon's Office, fires at pop-up targets while on an M-16 qualification range at Fort McCoy. Photo by Sgt. Aaron Berogan

"This will be our new commander's first time to assess unit training," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Greene, 85th Support Command. "The two basic things are to improve the Soldier's skills and the ability to qualify with weapons and develop additional team cohesion."

Weapons training began at the zero range.

"I was a first-time 'go,'" said Spc. Kiefer Johnson, human resources specialist, after exiting the zero range. "I'm hoping to do the same (on the qualification range)."

Alongside the junior Soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Harris, a veteran Soldier with 31 years of service and two tours in Iraq, was back on the firing range.

"I wish we qualified every year instead of every two years," said Harris. "I think Soldiers keep their skills proficient by participating in training like this."

Capt. Serban David, finance officer who controlled the zero range from his position in the range tower, agreed. "It's very important for Soldiers to maintain their skills and fire their weapons accurately," he said.

After qualifying at the zero range, Soldiers walked down a dirt road to the nearby M-16 qualification range to fire at pop-up targets ranging in distance from 50 to 300 meters. Sgt. 1st Class David Windsor, M-16 range noncommissioned officer who qualified as an expert marksman, said for some Soldiers the long-distance targets presented a challenge.

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Sgt. Angel Olivo fires from the kneeling position at pop-up targets at a Fort McCoy range. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Anthony L. Taylor

"It's always the long-range targets that Soldiers have the most difficulty with," Windsor said.

"It's a psychological block. They fail to do the fundamentals when they (fire at) the longer (range) targets."

Windsor offered a number of suggestions to help Soldiers improve those skills.

"Visualization. Mentally preparing yourself to do something," said Windsor. "Observe the firearm fundamentals of breathing, relaxing and aiming, and, then, decrease your arc of movement."

Some Soldiers, like battle buddies Staff Sgt. Latasha Taylor and Sgt. Antania Anderson, put their marksmanship skills to work and scored hitting 32 out of 40 for Taylor, and Anderson with a score of 33 out of 40.

Taylor credits motivation and excellent instruction while on the zero range with helping her do well on the pop-up targets.
Spc. Yvette Leon, Human Resources Specialist, also scored a 32 out of 40.

Her tip was to "breathe in, breathe out, then shoot."

The second day, Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 335th Combat Sustainment Support Regiment, 181st Infantry Brigade, First Army, Division West, based out of Fort Sheridan, Ill., joined the 85th Support Command in the individual weapons qualification.

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Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Harris makes an adjustment to his
M-16 rifle on the zero range.
Photo by Spc. David Lietz

"Weapons qualification is a great training tool," said Sgt. 1st Class Ivan Smith, team leader. "We are a training brigade. We need to understand the weapons so that when we train down trace (units), we can give them the best training possible."

To strengthen the Soldier's marksmanship performance, Sgt. Angel Olivo gave a class on firing from the kneeling position — a relatively new firing position during the qualification.

"During the kneeling position you want to be as comfortable as possible," Olivo said. "You want to have the bottom of your tricep ahead of the knee. Secure the butt of the rifle firmly against your shoulder, and place your non-firing hand at the far end of the barrel for more stability."

With the individual weapons qualification complete for the year, perhaps Sgt. 1st Class Paul O'Connell, observer-controller/trainer platoon sergeant, summed up weapons qualification the best.

"I enjoy qualifying. I like honing my skills," he said. "It's like visiting an old friend."