By Jen Rodriguez (Fort Sam Houston, Texas)April 27, 2009
The last time Sgt. Bret Cherry, 25, participated in the M-16 Zero Qualification Range was in 2006.
He shot at the sharpshooter level, ranging between 33 and 37 out of 40 possible hits. Three years later, the wounded warrior returned to the firing line April 15 at Camp Bullis along with Brooke Army Medical Center's Troop Command Soldiers with one goal in mind; to remain on active duty.
This month, Cherry will go before a medical board for the next two to three months to determine whether he's fit enough to remain in the Army.
The medical board will consist of appointments and evaluations to determine if he's ready to go back to the Army or get out based on his disability.
Cherry, a cavalry scout assigned to Task Force Fury, was injured Oct. 25, 2007 in Afghanistan. While returning from a mission, his vehicle was struck by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device resulting burns to seven percent of his body to his face, legs, arms, head and hands. He also received nerve damage to his left arm and part of his stomach was removed.
Cherry said, "I hope that qualifying on the range and completing the 26.6-mile Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in 12 hours on March 29 will help me on the medical board. I have to be found fit for duty on a point system." Under the point system, getting all ones is the highest that a Soldier can achieve. "... that means I'm good on everything," Cherry said.
When he clears the medical board, Cherry wants to change his military operation specialty to an explosive ordnance disposal.
He admits he always wanted to work in this field before he was injured. "I don't see many EOD around here," he said. "Either the bomb gets them good or they don't get injured, because their vehicle takes the explosives."
At one time, he wanted to become a warrant officer and fly helicopters, but he said "I don't think they'll take me with my nerve damage. I can't make a full fist yet." Cherry was concerned about the difficulty of lying in the prone position, before the range went hot, because he hadn't done it in a while.
Determined, while battling Texas winds and hot spells, Cherry laid in the prone position with an M-16 rifle and fired round after round at the zero range, longer than he thought.
"I had a defected gun," he said. "The rear sight kept dropping down each time I fired. I had to switch out weapons and start all over again."
Finally with a working weapon on target, Cherry was given the thumps up to proceed to the qualification range with a 10-silhouette target.
The qualification range consists of three rounds. Soldiers are issued a 20-round magazine and have two minutes to put it into a silhouette of ten figures in the prone supported position.
During the second round, Soldiers are issued a magazine with 10-rounds and have 15 seconds to put it in each silhouette in the prone unsupported position. On the third and final round, Soldiers are issued a 10-round magazine and must get into a kneeling position and have 60 seconds to put no more than two rounds into the targets. At the end of the day, Cherry was impressed with the results. He shot 34 out of 40 possible hits, earning the title of sharpshooter once again.
"It's what I expected to shoot," he said. Overall, I think I was about even with the rest of the Soldiers. The only thing, was loading the ammunition. It was a little slower." But, he shrugs, "That'll come with time."