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Army's New Weapons Qualification Standards
by U.S. Army Spc. Harrison Moore
August 16, 2020

The new Individual Weapons Qualification (IWQ) for Soldiers is expected to begin October 1, 2020, or fiscal year 2021.

In light of that, many Kentucky National Guard Soldiers were sent to a “Train the Trainer” courses in order to instruct and prepare their units for the new requirements.

Sgt. Joseph McClanahan with the 20th Military Intelligence, winner of the Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year in 2019 participates in a weapons qualification table during the Best Warrior Competition at Wendall H. Ford Regional Training Center in Kentucky on October 23, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)
Sgt. Joseph McClanahan with the 20th Military Intelligence, winner of the Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year in 2019 participates in a weapons qualification table during the Best Warrior Competition at Wendall H. Ford Regional Training Center in Kentucky on October 23, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

Among those Soldiers was Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Gimple with the 438th Military Police Company.

During a deployment in 2008, Gimple was influenced by a great mentor who was a weapons craft instructor.

“He really emphasized how important it is to effectively operate and handle your weapon in that type of environment,” said Gimple. “He would say the grass was greener on the other side once you really understand how to use your equipment with confidence.”

That is precisely the goal with the new Individual Weapons Qualification (IWQ) for Soldiers which is expected to begin October 1, 2020.

Gimple has served over 15 years and is currently a platoon sergeant with the 438th in Murray, KY and he strives to educate his troops on the new requirements and changes they should expect.

“This IWQ will be a lot faster paced and will require Soldiers to be even more confident and comfortable with their weapons,” said Gimple.

The old qualification, “The Legacy Qual” as it’s called, in total took about 20 minutes from start to finish. The new test will only allow for just under four minutes.

Due to the increased speed of the new weapons qualification, physical fitness will play a larger role in how Soldiers can best prepare themselves.

“Soldiers must be even more physically fit, tactically competent, and situationally aware to successfully qualify,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Kasey, a physical fitness instructor with the 238th Regiment.

Kasey attended the four-day “Train the Trainer” course which instructed NCO’s on how to prepare Soldier’s in their units for the upcoming changes.”

“The emphasis with the new Army Combat Fitness Test and IWQ is similar in that they strive to make Soldiers more combat ready,” said Kasey.

Part of the change is that Soldiers will now be required to hit at least one 300-meter target to earn the title of expert. This effectively raises the standards of marksmanship which is a core skill for all Guardsmen.

“It’s imperative for units to train Soldiers during drill on warrior tasks and battle drills to give them the hands-on training they need,” said Gimple. “I think the real benefit will come about a year or so into it when Soldiers have had time to train and build confidence in their tactics.”

Just like physical fitness where some Soldiers lack in an area like running or lifting, when it comes to marksmanship some struggle in areas like improper trigger squeeze or a faulty sight picture.

“Every Soldier has at least one weakness and they need to work on sharpening their dull axe to make them better fighters. You can’t just only rely on your sharp axes,” said Kasey. “The idea is to make our troops more well-rounded.”

Soldiers will now have up to four targets at once pop-up whereas the old qualification at most had two. This instills the need to react much faster and make accurate decisions on the fly.

There will no longer be communication from the upper towers to Soldiers mandating when they can change magazines of firing positions. Rather, they will be responsible for maneuvering positions and acquiring targets on their own at a much faster rate.

Adjusting to shooting behind a barrier will also provide a learning curve. The barrier has notches like stairsteps that Soldiers will use to support their weapon.

“The biggest challenge will be accepting the change, but it creates the reps and sets we need among the force to maintain lethality,” said Kasey.

Soldiers need to prepare for the upcoming changes by continuing to train for the ACFT. They also need to execute weapons functions checks and become comfortable with handling their weapons.

“Overall, the new standards for IWQ will strengthen our force and help us to always be ready and always be there,” said Kasey.

“Soldiers should be proactive during drill and seek the expertise of those trained to teach the new qualification standards,” said Gimple. “I am proud to have the opportunity to teach the next generation how to operate their weapon and defend this country.”

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