CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE, N.Y. - Going to the range is more than a weekend long drill for some Soldiers.
Over the course of six months, the headquarters section of New York's Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) was getting ready for just three days that, for many part-time Soldiers, is the only time of the year they'll fire a weapon.
According to Sgt. 1st Class George Ost, the supply non-commissioned officer for the headquarters section, six months prior to the weekend, rooming has to be organized for the Soldiers, and a month out, meals are ordered.
In order to make sure all 235 Soldiers get the chance to shoot, and qualify, throughout the weekend, 14,000 9mm rounds for the M9 pistol and 14,000 5.56mm rounds for the M4 carbine needed to be ordered well ahead of time.
The supply Soldiers also had to make sure that at least 300 magazine for both types of weapons were on hand and that there were 30 M4s and 20 M9s available for firing.
Because JFHQ is a TDA-short of table of distribution and allowances-unit, there is not an assigned weapon for each Soldier.
From May 18 to 21st, 24 Soldiers from the JFHQ supply section were at Camp Smith preparing and running the ranges so Soldiers could qualify.
In preparing for this drill weekend, Master Sgt. Myles Beecham, the senior operations sergeant for JFHQ's headquarters company turned the mission over the Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Vanness, the section training NCO.
"I gave Sgt. Vanness the what, and let her handle the how," Beecham explained
His reasoning, Beecham explained, came from a quote by General George S. Patton: "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
"My challenge to all my Soldiers is to innovate. I want to make a system for my Soldiers to make things easier. Try to put your piece on everything, try to put your signature on all your work." Beecham said.
The M4 range had 13 Soldiers acting as Range staff, with 1 Pre-Marksmanship Instruction (PMI) officer. They were able to get through 60 Soldiers, firing about 9600 rounds.
The M9 pistol range had 11 Soldiers as staff, with a PMI officer, and were able to get through the other 175 Soldiers, firing nearly 10000 rounds.
While most Soldiers drill for two days out of the month, JFHQ's supply section has a four day mission. Leaving Thursday morning, they arrived at the Camp Smith Training Site at noon and went to work delivering weapons and ammo to their respective vaults.
Afterwards, magazines had to be filled. At first glance, this is a mundane job, but on the 18th these Soldiers worked through 91 degree weather with very little shade, and very little moving around.
Each soldier gets 10 magazines before going on the M4 firing line. 6 of the magazines the three rounds each. These are for the soldier to zero their weapon. The other 4 magazines have 10 rounds each. These are for qualifying, making a total of 58 rounds they will shoot.
The next step was to move all the ammunition back to the ammo vault, then drive to Range 1 where M4's would be fired, and Range 3A where the 9mm would be fired, and set up the targets. The following day, they'd be ready to shoot.
At 6:30 on Friday the 19th, the supply section was moving. Picking up weapons and ammo, moving them to their ranges, then setting up the tower.
Sgt. 1st Class David Martinsen, Headquarters Company human resources sergeant, was the Range Safety Officer.
His mission, Martinsen explained, was to "make sure no unsafe acts happen on the range."
He also gave commands to Soldiers on the firing line when it was time for them to qualify.
The temperature that day rose to a high of 88 degrees, but the Soldiers on the firing line had to wear gear that included their Advanced Combat Helmet, combat vest, gloves, eye protection and ear protection.
Many Soldiers said this was a disadvantage due to the already poor airflow within the Army's current uniform. They claimed it made them sweat too much to be able to clearly see any target, ruining their score.
Soldier were on the range for two hours at a time. But JFHQ's supply section was there all day, constantly reloading magazines for the next iteration, collecting empty 5.56mm casings, putting up new targets, and acting as safeties for the shooters.
"This is one of our biggest weekends to make sure everybody's good for ammo, weapons...it's another big thing for training, [qualifying] helps you with promotions. That's what the soldier should be focusing on." Sgt. 1st Class George Ost said.