Ready, Aim, Fire!

Movie gun
Camp Atterbury, IN —
Holding what I call a “movie gun.” (A weapon that looks like it belongs in a science fiction movie.) This one is an M4 carbine with a laser scope, a infrared night-vision sight, and tactical flashlight. Oh, yeah, it fires bullets, too.

More training today, this time at the firing range. As with all military marksmanship courses, the training starts in the classroom, teaching safe handling procedures and firing fundamentals. When I was in the Marines, this process took two weeks (a process they called “snapping in.”) The Air Force and Army don’t spend this much time in class, but still cover the basics.

Today was my first Army-led marksmanship class, it was a little different than my Air Force and Marine experiences, but basically, they all teach the same things: don’t point at anything you don’t intend to kill, handle the weapon safely, and control your breathing when you squeeze the trigger.

After the classroom instruction, we went to the firing range … sort of. We actually went to a firing simulator. The Air Force calls it FATS — FireArm Training Simulator; the Army calls it EST – Electronic Simulator Training. It’s basically a lifesize video screen where targets pop up and we shoot at them. (Kind of like the Nintendo Wii.) The weapons we shoot with look and feel real, but have been modified to add recoil by pumping air into them. No bullets are actually fired, but the experience is still the same (and a LOT more fun!)

Usually, my experiences at the rifle range are just like a class project … go to class, then go and demonstrate learning by doing some hands-on work.

But this class was different. Unlike so many other classes in life, where you learn stuff, demonstrate that you have learned it, but never really USE it (like calculus,) THIS particular marksmanship class had a different vibe to it.) Everyone took the class a little more seriously than usual … maybe because for many of us, this might be the last weapons training we receive before we actually have to use these weapons as they were intended to be used … for real.

Of course, I shot a perfect score. (I’m not bragging or anything.) As we say in the world of military Combat Photography: “9mm or 35mm … either way, it’s a sure shot!”

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