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Airmen Sharpen Gunfighting Skills
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Janiqua Robinson
January 12, 2019

Teams of Airmen move in and out of cover while under fire. Less than 15 feet from the enemy, one of the Airman’s primary weapons jams. Without hesitation, in one fluid motion, he slings his rifle, draws his pistol and quickly eliminates the threat.

Airmen from various career fields within the 93d Air Ground Operations (AGOW) traveled to Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range, Kan., to participate in a course that made techniques like this second nature.

The gun course was held in August 2018, which incorporated their specific duties as tactical air control party (TACP) members and security forces personnel and built on their gunfighting skills.

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A student fires an M4 carbine at a target during a full spectrum operator course, August 28, 2018, at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range, Kansas that incorporated specific duties performed by tactical air control party members and security forces personnel to build on their gunfighting skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)
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“The full spectrum operator course bridges the gap between the traditional combat arms instructor training (CATM) and what they’re going to face downrange facing off with enemy combatants,” said Master Sgt. Joe Aton, 93d AGOW joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) program superintendent. “Traditional CATM shooting is shooting at paper (from various positions) while this course will prepare guys for what they’re going to see in real combat.”

Fast transitions to their side arm, organizing their gear so it didn’t hinder their ability to aim or reload their weapons and practicing proper form when firing were all lessons hit hard during the first few days of the course.

A mix of veterans, guard and reserve members whom have varying levels of combat experience run the course, hoping to impart their knowledge to today’s warfighters.

“The mission is to save lives,” said Brian Hartman, chief instructor. “It’s all about the troops that are downrange … there’s rarely a week that goes by that we don’t receive communication from folks who are using material that we’ve given them and it’s helped them gain or maintain the edge in an encounter.

“That’s the greatest feeling in the world; there’s no better job satisfaction than that, but we want to share the wealth,” Hartman added. “It’s about getting that information pushed out there and getting everybody back home safe to see their kids grow up.”

Various air support operations squadrons chose one experienced and new JTAC to participate, while the 820th Base Defense Group chose a new defender and a fire team leader.

While the course primarily focused on gunfight techniques, it also incorporated exercises that challenged specific job skills. Airmen were challenged on their mindset of the feel and look of a “real-world” gunfight.

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A student reloads an M4 carbine during a full spectrum operator course, August 28, 2018, at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range, Kansas that incorporated specific duties performed by tactical air control party members and security forces personnel to build on their gunfighting skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)
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“One of the most challenging things we impart to people will be mindset,” said Hartman. “In a real environment a small mistake can magnify massively into a huge mistake which can have severe consequences to you, your teammate and can have a ripple effect on down the line.

“That shift in mindset to make everybody treat every single bullet as though it’s a gift,” Hartman added. “Every single minute; every second they step out onto the range should be treated as though they’re in the real environment and could have to use these skills tomorrow. If we knew we’d have to do it tomorrow it might change the way we approach training today.”

Throughout the course, Airmen moved tactically through dangerous crossings where they had to return fire and call in close air support, all while being held accountable for every mistake.

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Students run for cover during a full spectrum operator course, August 30, 2018, at Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range, Kansas that incorporated specific duties performed by tactical air control party members and security forces personnel to build on their gunfighting skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)
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“I think the biggest challenge is breaking bad habits,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Janosick, 20th Air Support Operations Squadron joint terminal attack controller (JTAC). “We haven’t had a lot of dynamic weapons training so breaking out of our comfort zone, learning these dynamic movements and being comfortable behind the weapon (is great).

In addition to revamping the way they shoot during the course, Airmen were encouraged to take the techniques and knowledge back to their squadron and incorporate it.

“I’m hoping to take back as much information from this course (as I can),” said Tech. Sgt. James Estep, 822d Base Defense Squadron fire team leader. “(Especially) ways to think outside of the box when it comes to shooting and honing your skills. It’s really nice having a wide variety of career fields out here. You’re either learning new things from them or they’re learning from you so it shines a new light on things.”

Like any skill, if you don’t use it, you lose it; which is why Aton also hopes to incorporate this course into the current training AGOW Airmen receive.

“I think this is something that should become one of the foundations for our guys as far as gunfighting which is a basic skill everybody should have,” said Aton. “It’s also a perishable skill so it should be something we do annually.”

 

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