RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- It's time to deploy and part of out-processing is weapons training. For younger Airmen, this might be the first time they have shot since basic military training. The thought of having to qualify could be nerve racking to some, while others have their eyes set on becoming a marksman.
Regardless of an Airman's goal on the range, the 569th Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, or CATM, instructors will get them there.
The CATM instructors took time to teach a young Airman just how valuable the fundamentals of firing a weapon can be. They focused on phase five of the Air Force qualification course, teaching Airman 1st Class Thomas Smith, a 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs broadcaster, how to correctly perform site alignment, site picture, breathing techniques, and the firing positions.
"First we took Airman Smith to the firing range and had him shoot cold," said Staff Sgt. Brian Carpenter, a 569th CATM instructor. "Without any class time or coaching he failed the qualification, scoring only 7 out of 24."
Even though Smith grew up firing rifles, he added that he felt uncomfortable during his cold firing and even started to lose confidence as he continued to miss targets. He did the typical mistakes of looking at the target, breathing during the shot and jerking the trigger.
"When we first saw Airman Smith fire, he was just trying to get rounds down range to the best of his ability," Carpenter said. "It sounds silly, but if you haven't been taught the proper way to use the weapon, your body will be off and you will start to fight the rifle."
The instructors then brought Smith to the class room where he received a consolidated phase five training session. Carpenter noted that this is the portion of the course where they see the most trouble when it comes to qualifications.
During the site alignment and site picture portion of the course, the CATM instructors said that most Airmen tend to focus on the target instead of the front site post, making them fire off target. They also demonstrated how to steadily control your breathing and to consciously stop your breathing before you take the shot.
The instructors then focused on the four different firing positions: prone supported, prone unsupported, kneeling barricade and over barricade.
"During the prone support position you should make sure to rely on using your bone structure instead of your muscles because it will cause less movement to your weapon," Carpenter said. "Also a lot of people tend to rest off of the barricade, but in the kneeling and standing position the barricade is your best friend."
After a brief class room session with some hands-on training, the instructors brought Smith back to the firing range.
Carpenter added that there was an enormous difference in the way Smith handled his weapon, showing a lot more confidence after the instruction. He began to fire his shots on target in tighter groups. Smith went from landing 7 on target to 19 out of 24, only a couple of shots away from marksmanship.
"After the class room fundamentals and some coaching he did a great job, validating our position here at CATM," Carpenter said.
Smith said the instructors were very helpful and they knew what they were talking about and how to effectively get it across; communicating what he was doing wrong and how to fix it.
"I feel confident in my shooting now and if I was to deploy I would be a much better asset to the team," Smith said. "I truly believe this training has made me a better Airman."