The Soldiers of the 926th Contracting Battalion conducted weapons familiarization and included 42 of their civilian counterparts from the Army Contracting Command -- Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Communications-Electronics Command.

The one-hour training experience, held at the Engagement Skills Trainer firearms simulation range at APG-South, was an introduction into six weapons used by today's Soldiers such as the M249 squad automatic weapon, M4 carbine series, M2 .50-caliber machine gun, M240B medium machine gun, M136 AT4 anti-tank rocket launcher, and the M9 pistol. Because of the positive feedback from the training participants, Lt. Col Andrew Carter, 926th CBN commander, has arranged for the unit to sponsor another event to be held on March 22.

"The participation from the civilians was overwhelming," stated Sgt. 1st Class Justin W. Pellak, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the weapons familiarization. "When Lt. Col. Carter came up with the idea, we weren't sure if we would get enough civilians to participate. Amazingly, our slots for training were filled in a day and a half! We started the training day by finishing up some familiarization with the military in the morning, and then transitioned to our civilian-focused event in the afternoon. This was a great opportunity for my NCOs to put what they learned into practice. The NCOs were very eager to teach, coach and mentor their civilian counterparts on some of the weapons commonly found on the battlefield. We were all surprised at how quickly the civilians learned the weapon systems and how well they engaged the EST scenarios. We ended the day with a lot of gratitude from our co-workers and knew that they had a first-hand insight into the life of a Soldier."

The civilians rotated through the range in groups of 10-12. Each block of instruction began with training on each weapon and proper procedures within the range. Then, the participants moved to their firing positions and received hands-on experience with simulated weapons fire. The Soldiers coached the civilians on safe handling of the weapons, loading ammunition, positioning the weapon and firing at the virtual targets.

"For those of us who did not serve in the military, this training was something I never dreamed possible to do," said Dana Nunley, contracting officer with the ACC-APG's Edgewood Division. "It's a rarity for contracting officers to get to see what we're buying and how our efforts support the warfighter. To have an experience like this was absolutely priceless. Not only was it informative, it was fun, too! The passion and dedication that these Soldiers showed was incredible and honestly, transformative. They cared not only about our safety, but also about explaining to us the history and application of these weapons. It was obvious how much they enjoyed teaching and their zest for the work that they do was undeniable!"

This training not only gave the civilian employees a view into the lives of Soldiers, but it also helped contracting professionals see the value of their everyday work.

"The Soldiers made a definite difference and helped to remind all of us how important our jobs are," continued Nunley. "It also helped to reinforce how much respect we have for our warfighters - our heroes! It was a truly transformative experience and I appreciated it more than I may ever be able to articulate."