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Readiness, qualifications drive combat-arms trainers

  • Published
  • By Ty Greenlees
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OHIO -- Readiness is a key component in the 88th Air Base Wing mission, and 88th Security Forces Squadron combat-arms trainers are there to make certain Wright-Patterson AFB personnel are weapons-qualified.

Before deployment, many will need to visit Tech. Sgt. Richard Thomas and his team.

“Everybody that needs to qualify for deployment, (a permanent-change-of-station move) or annual qualification comes to us,” said Thomas, the 88 SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of combat arms. “The unit deployment managers may get a tasker for deployers who need a certain weapons qualification like the M9 or M4, and they come to us.”

Wright-Patt features a spacious, climate-controlled indoor-firing range. The building, completed in 2004, has two ranges with 23 shooting lanes, a large classroom, gun-cleaning room, armory and offices.

“The nice part is we have a great facility,” Thomas said. “I’ve told these guys over and over again that you’re going to get spoiled here as an instructor. Most other ranges and facilities are not like this. Most are outside.

“Our goal is to give the best combat-arms experience to everyone who comes through our door.”

The combat-arms trainers are equipped to teach weapons ranging from M9 pistols to the M2 .50-caliber machine gun. They cover weapon functions, teardown and reassembly in the classroom, as well as sighting and shooting posture.

In late February, Air Force personnel from the 88th Medical Group received qualification training on the M9 pistol. Each trainee followed Senior Airman Jerome Fogg, a combat arms trainer, as he covered its parts and functions during classroom instruction.

Handling and holstering the M9 is the final part of classroom training before moving to the range.

“I was surprised at how in-depth instructor Fogg went into the functions of the weapon. He did a good job reinforcing what he was teaching,” said 2nd Lt. Mariah Armstrong, a critical care nurse with 88 MDG, who had never fired a handgun due to COVID-19 restrictions during Officer Training School.

On the range, students practice firing weapons under the watchful eyes of Senior Airman Clayton Nyp and Senior Airman Paul Jezowski, instructors who walk the firing line. A random staccato sound of shots fills the range as trainees follow the loudly broadcast directions of Fogg that are muffled by two layers of hearing protection.

Each student fires 90 rounds of 9 mm ammunition through the M9 pistol. The first 45 rounds are for practice and the final 45  to qualify. Those who meet specific target goals can earn a marksman ribbon.

Nyp and Jezowski work to improve shooter accuracy and assist with questions or issues between shooting tasks. Corrections are made through changes in posture, sight picture, breathing techniques and trigger-finger placement.

“The range instructors were really good about working with the trainees,” Armstrong said. “They kept a good balance between those who really needed more help and others who were doing all right.”

Despite never firing a handgun, Armstrong was one shot-on-target shy of earning a marksman ribbon. “I’ll get it next year at qualifications,” she said.