AUGUSTA, Mich. – Michigan Army National Guard Soldiers zeroed in on one of the fundamentals of being a Soldier this month, completing the Army’s new individual weapons qualification course.
“This new individual weapons qualification course is more realistic,” said Sgt. 1st Class Williams Burns, assigned to the 177th Regiment, Regional Training Institute (RTI). “Soldiers have to execute multiple magazine changes without being directed to, monitor their round count internally, and count their targets.”
The course replaces the previous annual marksmanship qualification standards with one that requires the shooter to engage targets faster. The course also teaches Soldiers to fire their M16 rifle or M4 carbine in positions they may find themselves in during combat.
“It felt really good being able to go through what felt like a natural movement in an urban setting,” said Staff Sgt. Tatjuana Hackett, combat medic, 177th Regiment, RTI. “I might start out standing because I am walking, but then might have to immediately go into a prone position to make myself a smaller target and reduce my silhouette and make sure I’m safe.
“If I have to get ready to move, I would transition to a kneeling position and then a standing position to push forward. It all makes sense for engaging an enemy in an urban setting,” she said.
Soldiers equipped with the M4 rifle shot while standing, prone supported, prone unsupported and kneeling. Before ascending on the qualification course, the Soldiers, who are assigned at Fort Custer Training Center and typically provide individual skills and leadership development training, adjusted their optics for better accuracy.
“At the zero range, the Soldiers made sure their optics are zeroed on their target,” said Burns. “Once that’s done, they come to the qualification range and shoot 15 rounds at 300, 200 and 100 meters to confirm the weapons are zeroed in.”
The course itself was more challenging for Hackett.
“I have been in (the Guard) for almost 20 years and know and understand the old course very well,” she said. “When I got to the zero range and found out everything was going to be different, I felt slightly anxious because I was deviating from the norm for me.”
Hackett said she thought the new course enhanced her marksmanship abilities.
“We had two more rounds per shot group to zero,” she said. “This was beneficial as I was able to see my breathing pattern and trigger squeeze control in the shot group and make adjustments. It’s more accurate because you can see more points of contact per shot.”
The new course used barricades, promoting urban warfighting with shooting in various supported and unsupported positions.
“We were able to use barriers as support during qualification as if you were using something to prop you up in a real firefight,” said Hackett. “It’s definitely more fluid, real-life, and mimics using our vehicles for support. You might have to get out and on the hood of your vehicle and engage a target or fall on the ground and engage behind cover.”