By Master Sgt. Dean Welch, West Point Directorate of CommunicationsMay 7, 2009
Approximately fifty cadets went back in time on May 2 to become better leaders in the future.
The cadets took part in the History Dept.'s annual historic weapons shoot on Range 5.
The event is part of the department's History 301/302, History of the Military Art, curriculum.
Range 5 is a familiarization range, and cadets received instruction on, and the opportunity to fire, 14 different weapons from our country's conflicts-weapons used by American forces as well as the enemy.
"This brings history home to them," Maj. Michael Bonura, a history professor and organizer of the range, said. "They see differences between the ways armies fight through the weapons they fight with."
This was Firstie Jordan Terry's, a history major, third time participating in the weapons shoot.
Terry said it is imperative that cadets gain a sense of familiarity in handling a weapon they know little, if nothing, about.
"We should be confident to handle, to pick up and use, or pick up and make safe, a foreign weapon if we come across it on the battlefield," Terry said.
Bonura, a 1997 West Point graduate, said that many of the history instructors have had weapons like the ones on the range in their unit arms rooms in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Before moving to the firing line for their hands-on training, the cadets received a demonstration on American weapons throughout the years, from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from the Orange County Civil War Re-enactors. The demo showed the ease and speed with which warfare has increased over the years.
The Revolutionary War soldier took more than two minutes to load and fire his musket-once. Nearly 200 years later, the World War II fighter was able to use his rifle to engage his target multiple times in a fraction of that time.
Then, when his rifle was empty, he drew his sidearm and emptied its clip.
Cadets moved up and down the firing line filling ammo clips before moving to the firing position for their opportunity to shoot down range.
Terry, a Louisville, Ky., native, positioned at the M1/M2 Carbine station, said firers received a brief introduction to the weapon they were about to fire and how it was used in war.
Then the cadets got the opportunity to fire.
The Browning automatic rifle was easily one of the more popular weapons being fired.
"It's one of the sexier weapons out here," Terry said.
Plebe Isaac Cluff said the day "makes history real" and that his favorite weapon was the MG3, a German machine gun.
"It's the first machine gun I've ever fired," the Payson, Ariz., native said. "I like to shoot and lots of these guns you see them in movies."
Bonura, a 12-year veteran originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., said not only do they (cadets) see the weapons in movies, but that some of the cadets are familiar with them from video games, like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor series, they play.
All of the weapons fired, with the exception of the muskets provided by the re-enactors, are owned and maintained by the History Dept. using money from the Col. Vincent J. Esposito Endowment.
Bonura said the Historical Weapons Shoot has been taking place for at least 20 years and is used not only as a tool to teach, but also to recruit underclassmen to become history majors.