Shooting for marksman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Colby L. Hardin
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Combat arms training and maintenance is crucial for Airmen. It's required for every Airman in the Air Force before deployment and certain permanent changes of stations.

"It isn't all about coming and shooting at targets to get a score," said Senior Airman Cory Jackson, 22nd Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor. "I expect the students to know everything they would need to properly use that weapon."

At some point in their career all military personnel go to CATM to qualify on a weapon and the instructors are there to help.

"Some people don't even know how to shoot or load a weapon," said Jackson. "You can't expect them to go downrange and automatically know what to do."

Attendees can expect to learn how to take apart and reassemble their weapon, adjust their sights, different shooting positions, and how to clean their weapon.

"We teach the basics about the weapons," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pellegra, 22nd SFS CATM NCO in charge. "Being in the military, you never know when you will need to pick up a weapon and use it."

The all-day course starts at 9 a.m. and last until 3 p.m.

CATM instructors must go through a two month technical training course in addition to the security forces training in order to be certified as instructors. During this training they learn the ins and outs of each weapon.

"My job is to know that if my weapon stops working, I will know exactly what is wrong with it and how to fix it," added Jackson. "I don't just stand in front of a classroom and teach."

One of the goals of CATM instructors is to pass on their weapon confidence to each student that comes through the class.

"We can sit here all day and try to explain how you're supposed to properly use the weapon," Pellegra said. "But until you actually get on the line and fire it for yourself, you won't get any better."

At times, Airmen who have served multiple enlistments may find flaws in the way that they have been handling a weapon.

"Whenever I hear a colonel or a chief master sergeant say that my instructing taught them something new, it makes me feel good," said Jackson. "Especially knowing that my teaching helped them earn that marksman ribbon."

Airmen receive the small arms expert marksmanship ribbon by receiving an excellent score while qualifying.

Pellegra said the instructors are relieved when they can help a student who struggled during the beginning of class, finally get comfortable shooting the way that they are supposed to.

"Sometimes you have shooters that come through here, who have never shot a gun before and are kind of afraid of it," Pellegra added. "But after they shoot that first shot and get the nerves out of the way, they're like a well-oiled machine. It is satisfying seeing some of students face their fears, and push through that fear to actually learn how to shoot that weapon."

"It's very important that all Airmen receive this training," said Jackson. "It could be the difference between life and death."

To schedule a time to go through CATM, Airmen must get a date from their unit deployment manager.