Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Today I had the biggest anxiety attack since this whole deployment started. It was first of two days of live fire with the M-16. Although I spent 11 years in the military back in the 70s and 80s, I have not fired an M-16 on a qualification range since Air Force basic training in February in 1972. Worse, in AF basic we did not go through the whole qualification process: zeroing the weapons, pop-up targets, night fire, firing in gas masks. In the Air Force, they handed us a weapon, we shot at some targets, they took the weapons and that was the one and only day in my Air Force career I handled a personal weapon.
When I joined the Army, I went straight to tank training. For the next eight years my personal weapon was a 45 cal. pistol. So this morning we boarded a bus to go to the range wearing our new bulletproof vests and helmets.
On the first range we zeroed the weapon. To zero, you shoot three rounds at a paper target at 25 meters. To zero the weapon, you must put 5 rounds in a 4 cm square. Since the M16A4 we use has both traditional iron sights and the new close quarters optical device, we have to zero the weapon twice, once with each sight.
So to zero the weapon with both sights, you have to shoot at least 12 rounds--six with each sight--and hit at least five out of six. Most of the 25 of us who were shooting fired 36 to 48 rounds. I fired 60. A few soldiers fired more. One soldier, a female sergeant, fired 12 rounds and was done.
We fire side by side in 8-foot-wide "lanes" with very prominent numbers. When the safety NCO told the tower the woman in Lane 6 zeroed with 12 rounds, the tower told her to walk down the embankment we shoot from and clear her weapon. As she walked toward the ammo point to turn in her unused ammunition, the tower told all the rest fo us to turn around and look at the female sergeant walking to the ammo point.
The sergeant in the tower said on the PA system, "Take a look ladies and gentlemen, that's what a soldier looks like. Now turn around."
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