CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION ADDER, Iraq - Soldiers with the 36th Sustainment Brigade out of Temple, Texas, fired their weapons Nov. 9 through Nov. 10, at Lightning Memorial Range at Contingency Operating Location Adder, Iraq, to qualify and zero their weapons.

Capt. Michael J. Ford, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company with the 36th Sust. Bde., said the company qualified as a whole with its weapons prior to deployment, but regularly qualifying is a way to fight complacency within the unit.

Going to the range reminds Soldiers to keep up with weapons maintenance, he said.

"Being stationed in theater here, especially in Iraq, with the elements, the dirt, the sand, and wind, that is a very important aspect of maintaining your weapon, keeping it clean, serviceable, so if you have to react or have to engage the enemy it is in working (condition)," said Ford, a Paris, Texas, native. "Going to the range enables you to gauge how often or how much you need to keep your weapon clean. The range is one way to get to know your weapon a little bit better."

Staff Sgt. Mario A. Bonilla, a training noncommissioned officer with the 36th Sust. Bde. HHC, was a range safety officer both days, and said he spent roughly three months planning and organizing the unit's trip to the range.

Although the range was optional, roughly 90 Soldiers from the unit qualified on either the Beretta M9 9 mm pistol or the M4 5.56 mm carbine, he said.

Bonilla said the unit plans to conduct range training quarterly and he hopes to be able to facilitate qualifications on the M249 5.56 mm squad automatic weapon during the Soldiers' next trip, which is scheduled for January.

He said his main focus on the range was the safety of the Soldiers.

"(The goal was) safety, to make sure that everyone went out there and had a good time, got comfortable with their weapon, and no one got hurt," said Bonilla, a Long Island, N.Y., native.

Sgt. First Class Alfonso L. Brown, the orderly room noncommissioned officer in charge with the 36th, was the officer in charge of the range for the training.

Brown, a Fort Worth, Texas, native, said some of the Soldiers had never used the Aimpoint M68 Close Combat Optic used with the M4, and the range them a chance to familiarize themselves with it.

"We are the National Guard, so some of this, the optics and stuff, a lot of these Soldiers just started using them right before we deployed," he said.

Brown said weapons training is important to him because he believes it helps him to be a better Soldier.

"You continue to do it to perfect it, to familiarize yourself with the procedures, the technique, because at the end of the day, all of us are riflemen," he said.

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