Friday, December 22, 2006

Weapons Qual

As she pulls into the parking lot of the shooting range she notices that everyone else on her team has already arrived. The knot in her stomach tightens a little more. She whispers to herself "calm down" as she wipes the sweat off her palms using her ACU pants.

Once inside the range she jokes and cuts-up with everyone as she is casually eyeing the FATS set-up. Four stations are set up with weapons and sand bags. There is a screen at the far end of room with what looks like a projected rifle range. She takes a deep breath and exhales. SFC Ranger, her 1SGT says "Don't worry Ranger F, you'll be fine. We're gonna assign you a coach..."

She waits patiently while four others begin their qualification on the range. "Ready on the left, ready on the right..." She hears chuckles and whispers as the old warriors evaluate those on the range. They call out to each shooter "Hinde, you're too high! Windom, you’re shooting high left!" They finish the course and get up off the floor.

SFC Ranger says "SGT F, you need to pick a coach. Now everyone, listen up. She's gonna pick ONE coach, that person will help her and la-di-da-dee every-damn-body will leave her alone except for that person. Understood?" Several Hooahs echo throughout the room. SFC CIB (Combat Infantry Badge or bad ass warrior) steps forward and says "I can help you if you want.... I have *some* experience training for combat" he adds with heavy sarcasm. SFC CIB was part of an eight man team that trained the Iraqi's as Infantry while he was in Iraq the second time. She nervously says "Ok, if you don't mind."

SFC CIB runs through the four essentials of holding the weapon, breathing, sight alignment, and trigger pull. She listens intently as he goes through all the things her personal trainer said would be said. Joe Ranger had only met with her twice the previous week, and he warned her that she would get all sorts of misguided advice but he wanted her to remember only what he would teach her. She listened but inside was getting more nervous.

Weapons qualification is important for several reasons. First and foremost the Army and National Guard have a policy of "Every Soldier an Infantryman" or every soldier should be prepared to fight, period. There is no such thing as a support person who is not capable of picking up a weapon and fighting. It is a good and valuable policy. You NEVER know when you will be confronted with a situation that calls for defending yourself or a buddy.

Weapons qual is important for advancement. A passing qual of Marksman is worth 25 points, a Sharpshooter is worth 50 points and Expert is worth 75 points. It can mean the difference between making rank or not.

Finally, weapons qual can be important for status in a unit. If you are a poor shot or don't know your way around a weapon you can take a lot of ribbing and in some cases lose the respect of your peers. In her case, she had taken a lot of ribbing. Everyone pretty much dismissed her as "Gavy" and although the jokes tended to be good natured she could sense an undercurrent of disrespect. She knew this was her chance to shine and she wanted to do just that.

Finally her name is called and she approaches the range. Butterflies begin in her stomach as she lays down, picks up the weapon and aims. SFC CIB positions himself to observe and coach if necessary. She pulls the weapon close and holds it the way she was instructed by Joe Ranger. She hears someone whisper "Holy Shit! She's settin'up like a damn sniper!" Her coach says "Is that comfortable for you??" She nods as she glances at him with eyes as big as saucers. The call is shouted to lie prone, load the magazine, set weapon to semi-auto (safety off) and zero our weapons. She sights and squeezes the trigger three times in a row. She hears several swear under their breaths saying "Da-yum", "Look at that", "Shit!". The call goes out to zero again. She squeezes off three more shots and is feeling more comfortable. SFC Ranger shouts "JESUS H CHRIST!" Someone else says "SHIT, she ought to be a gottdam sniper!" The screen flashes the shots taken to zero the weapons of those currently on the range. Hers shows a tight circle of shots one on top of each other right dead center of the target. She glances at SFC CIB and whispers "Is that good?" He keeps a straight face as he says "uh, yeah, you want to have a tight cluster. That’s real good." She smiles sweetly to herself.

The call goes out to ready for the course. The first part is with the weapon supported. She makes sure she has the weapon held the way she was taught, heels down and toes pointed out, elbows wide for a good platform, left hand pulling the weapon into her right shoulder, finger lightly on the trigger, face pressed into the stock with her nose touching the charging handle. With both eyes open she watches for the first target. One by one she aims and shoots, the closer bigger targets are harder because they are only on screen for a moment. She hits every single 300 meter target as she hears the swearing in the background. She misses a 50 meter target on the right and cusses. 20 shots later and they stop. The scores rise and she sees she got 18 out of 20. Low whistles and murmuring in the background. She glances at SFC CIB, who is still staring at the screen with his mouth open. She says "I missed one I didn't realize. Which one was it?" He says "Um, it was the 50 meter on the lower left. I don't think you even saw it."

Now she has to shoot the M-16 without sandbags or "unsupported". She panics slightly since she has not practiced unsupported very much. SFC CIB tells her to pull the weapon and her elbows in even closer. She has about 2 seconds to move her elbows in and aim. The call goes out to load the magazine, set the weapon to semi and prepare to shoot.

The weapon is heavy and seems wobbly. She aims and shoots high. She cusses to herself again. She makes sure her sight alignment is the same as before she squeezes off at the targets rising in front of her on the screen. They disappear one by one. She misses another close target. DAMN! She calms herself remembering that panic won't help. She concentrates on her breathing. Slow down girl and concentrate. A pair of targets pops up and she aims for the smaller one first and misses the larger one. Calm down, calm down, she says to herself. She takes her last shot.

SFC Ranger jumps up and shouts "THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! FUCKIN’ SHARPSHOOTER!!! FIRST TIME AT THE FUCKIN’ RANGE!! AWESOME, RANGER F!!, FUCKIN' AWESOME!" SFC CIB slowly rises with a grin on his face and says "Good Job, you're one shot from making expert". She slowly raises, looks around the room at the faces that are staring at her. Nods are directed her way and several put out a fist for her to tap. She has been accepted into the "boys club" and can hold her head high. She beat out all but three of the shooters.

She leaves the building floating on cloud nine planning to come back with the 108th to re-qualify and pick up Expert. :-)


Blogger Dale B said...

I'm curious, how did you get into the guard without qualifying?

I thought that the guard made you go through boot camp, or at least some abbreviated version if your prior service was in the AF or Navy.

Dale B

Friday, December 22, 2006 7:38:00 PM  
Blogger SGT Lori said...

Because when I came in they didn't enforce it in Georgia. They do now.

Friday, December 22, 2006 8:06:00 PM  
Blogger Dale B said...

Oh, I forgot to say congratulations! It must feel great to not only qualify, but to qualify well. The comments from the peanut gallery were icing on the cake.

I love the idea of a sleeper; that which is not what it might appear to be.

Dale B

Friday, December 22, 2006 9:37:00 PM  
Blogger SGT Lori said...

It does feel great although I feel like a bit of a sneak. I am going to let them all in on the secret. I will relish it for a while longer though. ;-)

Friday, December 22, 2006 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger mauser*girl said...

Congrats! :)

Saturday, December 23, 2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Chuck aka Tully Mars said...

Congrats! Glad to hear you did so well. Merry Christmas too.

Monday, December 25, 2006 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...


We have all the elements of Army Strong right here.

Individual initiative, Effort, and a drive to succeed. Good job!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 12:11:00 PM  

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