BAGHDAD - Soldiers of 1st Cavalry Division sharpened their skills during a zero and qualifying range at Caughman Range on Victory Base Complex here, July 17 to keep their tactics in good working order.

The range gave Soldiers the opportunity to keep their skills polished with their assigned weapon in case they would have to use it in a combat situation. Even though Coalition forces have transitioned away from combat operations, insurgents have not quit fighting.

"It's extremely important because you never know what's going to happen," said Sgt. Tanisha Manning, from Oakland, Calif., assigned to Company B, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. "We can't get complacent and we have to make sure that we're ready to train and we're ready to fight the enemy if we have to, to protect ourselves."

Soldiers endured hot temperatures and dusty conditions to make sure their weapons and their skills were up to par. Space is limited on Victory Base Complex, so the Soldiers fired at paper targets on a relatively small range. "Here, it's kind of close; in the states it's more spread out," said Manning.

The paper targets were a new concept for many of the Soldiers, so it was an added challenge, according to Spc. Wilbur DeShields, a native of Akron, Ohio, assigned to Co. A, DSTB, 1st Cav. Div.

"It's different getting used to the paper targets," said DeShields. "With the pop-ups, you're moving around and reacting but these are right there in front of you and it's easy to get complacent and let it get away from you."

For some Soldiers, the range was a nice change of pace from normal duties, according to Pfc. Lauren McKeehan, assigned to Co. A, DSTB, 1st Cav. Div. "I like it, it's a chance to get away from the office," said the Texarkana, Ark. native. "Some of us don't go outside the wire often and the practice gives us confidence."

A big focus of the range was to strengthen and reinforce the Soldiers' confidence in their abilities and in their equipment, Manning explained. "When they walk off the range after qualifying and they're like 'Hey, I'm good with my weapon!' I think they're a lot more confident with themselves and with their weapon," she said. "We can't get lackadaisical; we have to make sure that our weapons stay up to par and we stay up to standard."

As the heat of the noonday sun seared the landscape, the firing had ceased. The Soldiers who had participated in the day's event had come away with a strengthened sense of proficiency, both in their weapon and their warrior skills. Though the Iraqi Security Forces have taken the lead in security operations, the Soldiers of the DSTB are prepared for anything that may come their way.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16