ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- The Air Forces force doesnt just come from the air anymore.
Recognizing the increasing role airmen play in ground operations, and facing an enemy that can appear anywhere at any time, the Air Force has started a new firearms training course aimed to simulate real combat conditions. Previously the training consisted basically of pointing a gun at a target and firing. Now elements are added that include moving before shooting, firing at the right target while avoiding the wrong one, and getting accustomed to commands airmen may hear in the field in the event of a firefight.
Also, every airman must qualify each time they deploy, no matter what their job may be. The new course approximately doubles the amount of rounds fired in training.
Robins Air Force Base started the training Dec. 1. The five firearms instructors in the 78th Security Forces Squadron teach the two-day classes with 24 students at a time. The previous training only took one day.
Tech Sgt. Chainey Moates, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the training, said the new course is a big upgrade because in the previous training students didnt move, which is what they would be doing in combat.
They just sat still and stayed in positions, he said. Now they are actually going real time doing what they would be doing down range. Its actually getting their heart rate up and gets their adrenaline pumping, and thats what they would be having to deal with down range.
Of course, he acknowledged, no training can exactly simulate what it will be like when bullets are flying from the wrong direction, but they try to at least prepare students for what to expect and how to cope with it.
When you get into a firefight and your adrenaline is pumping, its going to be a lot more difficult, Moates said. You could be running and shooting and have to stop and shoot. Theres a big difference when you are getting shot at.
The students fire M-4s, which also qualifies them to fire the M-16.
Master Sgt. Russell Pry, an aircraft mechanic in the 402nd Expeditionary Maintenance Flight, was among the students taking the class Tuesday. His unit specializes in repairing combat-damaged aircraft, which means they could be doing it in the field and away from the security of a base. The potential for coming under attack is so real for them that they practice repairing planes with rifles strapped to their backs.
A veteran of many deployments, Pry said the training is a big improvement.
I think we will be a lot more prepared, he said. They are putting us in situations that are more like the environment we would face.
Other new challenges include that shooters must fire from their off side, meaning those who are right handed must show they can shoot left handed.
Thats because they could end up having to do it that way to avoid breaking cover.
Also airmen are allowed fewer target misses to pass. Those whose primary job doesnt involve shooting get more leeway, but the standard is still higher for everyone. If they dont pass, they can take the training again. If they still dont pass, they wont be able to deploy, Moates said. So far that has been a rare occurrence.
It has also gotten tougher to achieve an expert rating, but Moates said they have usually had one or two airmen in each class qualify as experts.
Airmen who had trouble passing the previous course have naturally not been thrilled with it getting tougher, Moates said, but overall, airmen have appreciated being better prepared to defend themselves and their comrades.
I think a lot of people like it, Moates said. They are not just sitting there. They are getting up and moving around, so its more interesting for them.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.