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New marksmanship standards being met by base shooters

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

Staff Sgt. Harley Teets, 6th Security Forces Squadron, demonstrates the proper technique for firing with a gas mask at the base firing range.

photo by Nick Stubbs

Handicapped by gas masks since the start of the year, MacDill Airmen undergoing tougher standards to qualify with the M-16 rifle have surprised instructors and themselves, rising to the new challenge and more.

Qualification standards were upgraded to make it harder for all categories of shooters and adding a session of fire while wearing a mask was part of that stiffening. At first many Airmen worried trying to place shots precisely while their shooting eye was encased in the hot, awkward mask would be tough to accomplish - and range officers agreed.

"I have to say I have been surprised by how well everyone is doing," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Amos, NCOIC of Combat Arms. "Almost everyone is doing better than I ever expected."

Sergeant Amos said people who had trouble qualifying prior to the more rigid course, which includes more rounds and higher scores on top of the gas mask requirement, still have trouble. However, those who were qualifying in the past continue to qualify.

"They have more in front of them but they are stepping up and taking care of it," said Sergeant Amos. "A lot of them were worried that they were going to have problems but they are surprising themselves; it's a great self confidence booster."

Sergeant Amos said the new course is part of higher Air Force standards. While figures are not in yet for 2005, he suspects they will look very good despite that qualifying got tougher on all three Arming Groups of shooters.

Group A, or those who use weapons more often in their jobs, must score 32 or 50 shots to make the grade, while Group B shooters now need to score half of their 50 shots. Group C, or those who are expected to be least likely to use a weapon in their current job, must hit their marks 19 of 50 shots.

In addition, Air Force standards for Expert marksman were increased, with the new minimum score being 43 hits out of 50 shots.

Sergeant Amos said the range sees 250 to 300 Airmen a month going through the qualification course, With the new standards requiring more shooting and the mask session, the day has been made longer but the payoff appears to be better trained shooters who are successfully meeting the higher expectations.

The new rifle standards were adopted last year, with MacDill joining at the first of the year after enough gas masks were obtained to ensure everyone had one. A new, more stringent M-9 pistol qualification course was adopted late last year.

The most demanding course of fire is reserved for Security Forces and special operations personnel, who undergo drills that introduce stress and tactical maneuvers, including night firing and full-auto burst firing, said Sergeant Amos.

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