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Staying on target: 375th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms

  • Published
  • By Monte Miller
  • 375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Last year more than 2,600 Team Scott personnel were trained to be straight shooters, all thanks to the Combat Arms instructors at Scott.

"They usually come in 90 days prior to deploying," said Tech. Sgt. Mark Sanchez, 375th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms instructor. "We also do in-garrison training that is specific to duty like augmentees."

Sergeant Sanchez and his four fellow instructors are responsible for getting Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines at Scott ready to fire for any mission they may be presented with.

"It depends on the weapons requirement," Sergeant Sanchez explained. "Enlisted personnel generally train on the M-16 rifle and officers on the M-9 pistol. There are other job specific weapons that are trained on like the M-4 Carbine, other larger machine guns and grenade launchers."

Because of the close proximity of Mid- America Airport to the Scott weapons range, Sergeant Sanchez said training on those weapons are done either at Ft. Campbell, Ky., or Whiteman Air Force Base near Kansas City, Mo.

There are usually four classes per week at the weapons range; two for the M-16 and two for the M-9. Each class is made up of about 18 people.

"The class is about three hours long," Sergeant Sanchez said. "We start with weapons safety and teach them how to disassemble and reassemble their weapon. We then go into loading, unloading and how to deal with malfunctions."

Once they've mastered the classroom basics, students head out to the range.

"We have a different philosophy than military training instructors in basic training," Sergeant Sanchez said. "We want our students to have a good time. The more relaxed they are, the more information they will retain and they can have a good time learning."

Because Scott is a command base that is composed of high ranking officers from all services the Combat Arms instructors have to cater their teaching style to the caliber of students.

"We serve a wide range," Sergeant Sanchez said. "We train everyone from airman basics to three and four-star generals. Sometimes our students haven't handled a weapon for 15 years. They all have to have the same training."

Two basic firing positions are taught at the range including prone and kneeling with variations of each. Students also practice firing the weapons while wearing their gas masks.

Because of the lighthearted attitudes of the instructors, students are sometimes subject to their teacher's senses of humor.

"You have to have a good repore," Sergeant Sanchez said. "I feel sorry for a lot of my students because I have a lot of lame jokes."

The instructor's approach each class based on the students, which can range from those that haven't handled a weapon since basic to those that grew up shooting and have a great knowledge of firearms.

"They are generally good shooters, but they are the toughest students," Sergeant Sanchez said. "It is hard for them to take our advice since they have been around weapons their whole lives. We (instructors) enjoy the people that haven't shot since basic."

On the flip side, Sergeant Sanchez explained some of the students not only haven't had much experience with shooting, but are hesitant to even handle the weapon.

"The biggest fear some of our students have is of a weapon," he said. "We tell them the only time they should be afraid of a weapon is if it is pointed at them. At the end of the day we get to see the finished product and share the joy of someone that shoots expert. It also helps me see what I need to work on as a teacher."

To shoot at the expert level with the M-16, students are required to make 43 hits on target, with the M-9 pistol it's 42 shots on target with clusters of 25 to the chest and six to the head.

Sergeant Sanchez said some of the most fun for the instructors and the students is when an entire unit comes in for training because of the friendly competition that develops as shopmates vie for bragging rights.

The sergeant offered a few tips for anyone that will be attending a class at the Combat Arms range in the near future.

"If it's been a while since you've done this, open up your Airman's Manual and review," he said. "When you come here to shoot, dress appropriate to the weather. This may look like an indoor range from the road, but it's not."

Sergeant Sanchez is a Reservist, has been teaching Combat Arms at Scott for the past eight years and plans to continue. The Combat Arms range is assigned a maximum of seven instructors. Currently four are deployed.