ELWOOD, Ill. - “Always have your muzzle pointed down range” said Maj. Scott Hager, range officer in charge, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, who provided a mandatory safety briefing for Soldiers. “If you have a weapon in your hand, focus on your weapon.”
Following the briefing, Soldiers loaded ten rounds into each magazine and walked to the firing line. It was the first time the Soldiers fired on the five-year-old baffled range at the Joliet Training Area.
“I don’t think it will make a huge difference in shooting,” said Staff Sgt. Walter Rodgers, Executive Administrative Assistant, 85th USARSC.
Taking commands from the tower, the Soldiers fired 30 rounds from three different firing positions.
“The intent was to qualify a combination of active guard and reserve, and troop program unit Soldiers on the 25-meter range,” said Acting 1st Sgt. Robert Nolan, 85th USARSC. “Everyone was safe and there were no injuries. And we had trigger time. We haven’t fired since immediately before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
But marksmanship, like any other skill, requires practice to maintain.
“Shooting is a perishable skill,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Mallin, Senior Human Resources Non-Commissioned Officer, 85th USARSC. “Anyone who handles a gun should be practicing on a regular basis.”
Generally, Army Reserve Soldiers participate in weapons qualification annually.
“We need to have more range time. Soldiers who are not familiar with the M-9 pistol need to have more time,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Kroner, G-3, 85th USARSC. “The main objective is to qualify.”
To qualify, Soldiers must have 24 out of 30 hits on the silhouette to verify qualification on the range. After the Soldiers fired 10 rounds, they walked down their lane to mark the targets they hit, and then received additional guidance from Soldiers who served as shooting coaches. The firers benefitted from working with shooting coaches who also serve as law enforcement officers.
“The armed guard range provided an opportunity for Soldiers on the full-time staff and TPU Soldiers to get hands on with the M-9 Beretta for the first time in over a year,” said Sgt. 1st Class DeMarla Barbee, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Training Non-commissioned Officer, 85th USARSC. “Some of the TPU soldiers work in law enforcement in their civilian capacity. Therefore, it was a bonus to have them present to assist and coach those of us that weren’t as experienced.”