Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
Select noncommissioned officers from across post attended close quarter marksmanship training, led by U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit instructors/shooters on Fort Carson ranges, Nov. 26-Friday.
Master Sgt. William O’Connor, master gunner, 4th Infantry Division, said training the 42 Soldiers in the course was a first step in building up marksmanship experience in the Army.
O’Connor said his goal was for Fort Carson to eventually be able to provide marksmanship training equal to what USAMU currently provides.
“I would like to see us put our own team together, and stop bringing mobile training teams here,” said O’Connor. “These Soldiers were handpicked; we’re looking to get the right Soldiers to train others. We wanted to take people who were expert marksmen and make them better, so they can go back and train their units on the same thing they learned here.”
The mobile training team from Fort Benning, Ga., had a plan to make that goal a reality.
“The Army has gotten away from the known-distance range, and just does pop-up (ranges),” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Peters, shooter/instructor, USAMU. “We take them to a known-distance range, so they can see what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong.”
The team led Soldiers through a graduated course of instruction in order to build their skills.
“We take them from the very basics, (without improved outer tactical vest and advanced combat helmet), with known ranges, and slowly build them up to where they’re shooting with a full kit on, at distances they’re not quite sure about,” said Peters. “We’re reinforcing the fundamentals.”
The instruction began with a morning of classroom training, followed by the 25-meter known-distance range, where they made sure all the Soldiers could group, placing multiple rounds in approximately the same location when aiming center mass of the target, and zero their weapons, which corrects the sights of a weapon so that it will hit on target at 300 meters.
The next day was another known-distance range, where the Soldiers began at 200 yards and moved up to 500 yards.
The following day they zeroed their optical gun sights and re-fired the 200-500 yard known-distance range.
Soldiers fired those courses in the supported prone, unsupported prone and kneeling positions, and practiced using barricades, while using both their strong and weak hand for firing. They also learned how to use their weapon slings effectively to support accurate fire.
After one week of practicing the fundamentals, the Soldiers spent the entire second week practicing close quarter marksmanship skills. They trained on firing while moving as a team, and finished with a stress shoot, in which Soldiers have to fire accurately as a team while engaged in heavy physical exertion similar to what they would experience in combat.
Due to the Soldiers quickly learning to apply the basic fundamentals of shooting, the MTT instructors took them out to a range not originally on the schedule.
“This range here is more than we had planned, but they were doing better than expected,” said Peters. “So we brought them out to the 600-meter targets.”
Peters said that the Soldiers were all using their issued M4 or M16A2 rifles and optical gun sights. They also limited the use of the optical gun sights in the beginning of the training.
“A lot of people, when they use optics, they lose track of the fundamentals,” said Peters. “When we bring them back to iron sights, they re-learn how to apply the fundamentals.”
He said many of the Soldiers learned that lesson the hard way. When they began using their optical gun sights once again, they had a greater separation between rounds at 200 yards with optical gun sights than at 500 yards with iron sights.
The instructors also encouraged the Soldiers to help train each other during the course.
“We’ve had a pretty good group out here; they learn pretty fast,” said Peters. “We’ve been able to step back and just keep them pointed in the right direction. They talk to each other and learn from each other.”
The Soldiers attending the class said they felt the training was beneficial.
“People don’t get to the range enough,” said Sgt. Patrick Wilhelm, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 68th Combat Sustainment Support Brigade, 43rd Sustainment Brigade. “With two weeks at the range, you’ll learn so much more; and the instructors out here, you couldn’t ask for more.”
Wilhelm also has a new mantra when it comes to marksmanship.
“No matter what you’re shooting at, you’ve got to apply the fundamentals,” said Wilhelm. “They taught us that if you can shoot, you can shoot; it doesn’t matter if it’s for qualification. Everyone freaks out when those targets start
popping up, but there’s no need (to).”
That lesson is also going to help him out on his next trip to the range.
“This is probably going to boost my score up at least four targets; I’ve been shooting a 34 (out of 40),” said Wilhelm.
Units can expect to have their Soldiers benefit from this train-the-trainer course soon.
“They can take what they’ve learned here and apply it in training their Soldiers,” said Peters. “That’s a force multiplier right there.”