Story by 1st Lt. Kayshel Trudell on 07/31/2019Joint Base San Antonio, Texas -- Members of the 37th Training Support Squadron Combat Weapons Flight reopened the newly renovated Combat Arms Training Range at the JBSA-Lackland Medina Training Annex July 8, 2019.
BMT trainees were the first to experience M-4 carbine Weapons Familiarization Course at the range, which closed in November 2018, due to improper rainwater drainage. Since then the range has undergone refurbishing efforts to divert water runoff.
"The operational readiness of our force is paramount," said Lt. Col. Stargell Mosley, 37th Training Support Squadron commander. "These types of advancements and innovations provide support for BMT curriculum changes and better prepare trainees to graduate and be the lethal and ready Airmen that the Air Force needs. We are excited to see trainees firing on the range again."
Previously, BMT used the M-16A2 rifle, but made the switch to the M-4 carbine to improve the lethality of the force. The rationale for transitioning to the M-4 carbine it is the most utilized weapon at deployed location. Additionally, if an Airmen is trained to operate the M-4 carbine they are also authorized to carry the M-16A2 rifle, but not the reverse. Other advantages of the M-4 carbine include its lighter weight, collapsible buttstock and picatinny rail system that allows the simultaneously attachment of a scope or sight and a flashlight or night vision equipment.
"As we restore readiness in BMT, we will teach weapons proficiency early on," said Chief Master Sgt. Lee E. Hoover Jr., 737th Training Group superintendent. "We will expose trainees to the M-4 so they can become familiar with the weapon and learn its nomenclature. In week seven, trainees will attend the combat arms training course to gain a more in-depth understanding of the weapon, including how to safely react to malfunctions and fire the weapon while wearing a gas mask and chemical gear."
Along with the decision to revamp the range it was decided that BMT trainees on the new range will receive fire arm training and qualification, rather than only a familiarization course. This change now allows trainees the opportunity to earn the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon.
"Instead of providing on-time training for deployers now we can now provide regular qualification intervals for the base populace and JBSA personnel," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Stearns, Combat Weapons Flight NCO in charge. "The thought was, if the rest of the Air Force is in a permanent state of readiness why would our BMT trainees be any different.
In all, repairs allowed for an additional 30 firing points that can be used concurrently across multiple ranges. This translates to combat weapons instructors' ability to train 244 BMT trainees daily, four days a week, qualifying more than 40,000 BMT trainees in the M-4 carbine annually.
"The Air Force has placed increased value on weapons training as we build a more ready force," said Stearns. "The advancements made to the range allow us to train using multiple ranges concurrently and to do so year round. We were able to start training today thanks to our maintenance counterparts who constructed 200 new target frames within a week of the range being recertified."
Weapons training at BMT now consists of a full training day of four to five hours in classroom and three hours on the range. This offers a more robust training experience that ensures readiness. Special Warfare Airmen and other career fields including Office of Special Investigation agents, combat controllers, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists, explosive ordnance disposal journeyman, also receive M-4 carbine qualification training at the range. Other members preparing for deployment and assigned across Joint Base San Antonio can also qualify on the new combat arms range.
"We are here to ensure BMT trainees, and all Airmen, who come through the training are ready to support the operational Air Force" said Staff Sgt. Blaine Savage, 37 TRW Combat Arms Instructor. "It's an exciting mission. Every day I am grateful to part of a training that will impact so many across the Air Force."