Tuesday, September 30, 2008

REAL Live Fire!!!!

I was OK until the opening briefing for the Live Fire Shoot House began. Well actually I wasn't. As the 20 students filled the seats I started noticing half the class was wearing "Governor's Twenty" tabs on their shoulders. As I learned the day before, this patch is for the top marksmen in each state.

We are the first class to go through the new Live Fire Shoot House in Pennsylvania. I thought I was one of 20 guinea pigs.

Then the briefing started. A consultant/instructor named Phil flew in to teach the class. Phil gave us his resume. He is my age: 55. He enlisted at age 15 in the British Army. At 17-1/2 he became a paratrooper. At 24 he joined the SAS, the UK Special Forces. This affable veteran of liberating hostages and fighting terrorists in Northern Ireland and around the world then said, "You (meaning us in the chairs) are the best of the best. You will be the trainers who will run the Live Fire Shoot House."

Oh Shit.

I volunteered for this training because it the last time I fired an M-16 on a range was basic training in 1972. During most of my military career I was in tanks. I fired a 45 cal. pistol and submachine gun and the the machine guns and cannon on a tank each year, but not an M-16. So I thought this course would reacquaint me with the rifle.

After a 30-minute briefing, including the range safety briefing (the fastest range safety briefing I ever sat through because half the class is range control) we went straight to an outdoor qualification range. The instructor set up targets while we signed for M-4 Carbines and filled two 30-round magazines.

Ten minutes later we were firing full automatic in three-round bursts emptying both magazines. This was NOT going to be the usual all-day boredom of live fire qualification ranges.

Minutes later we were firing on the move, firing moving around obstacles, firing stepping over obstacles. We emptied almost a dozen 30-round magazines before lunch.

One of things Phil taught us was how to fire an M-4 on automatic with one hand. This is a very neat trick. I did it. But last Friday I was at the doctor for a shoulder injury. I am scheduled for an MRI next Monday. My shoulder was killing me while I did this.

And then we moved forward for another live fire exercise. I was paired up with a "Governor's 20" guy. After we completed the exercise, I was supposed to clear the weapon. I could not latch the bolt. After three tries I did it. So the guy I was paired with was understandably nervous and I am feeling more out of place than a Nun at a Frat party.

I talked to two other sergeant's from my unit. I told them I thought between my shoulder and my bad recall of weapon's procedure, I should quit the class. They said I should hang in.

After lunch we went to the shoot house. Again "You are all professionals" almost no preamble and we were clearing rooms in pairs. By the end of the day I was worn out. It was a very long drive home, 40 miles seemed more like 100. I started this post last night, but couldn't finish it.

As of now I completed the second day of training. I needed a lot of help, but ended the day on a high note, having cleared the building as part of a 10-man team--just like a camouflage SWAT unit. I'll write more about that as soon as I can.

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