JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., Aug. 5, 2010 - Soldiers from Headquarters, Headquarters Company (HHC), 99th Regional Support Command, honed their basic rifleman skills during Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction (PMI) here today.

The instruction was part of the HHC's five-day annual training and allowed participants to focus on critical Soldier skills such as weapon safety, weapon maintenance and proper firing technique.

"We use PowerPoint and hands-on training to give a Soldier - who maybe has no experience whatsoever with that weapon system - the ability to break down the weapon, clean it, make sure it's functioning properly once they put it back together, and have the (sense of) dependability in that weapon system," explained Sgt. 1st Class Casey Schwab, PMI instructor with the 2/315th Training Support Battalion.

"In order to be proficient in our basic Soldier skills and the AWT (Army Warrior Task) skill set of 'Shoot,' we have to be able to operate our weapons," said Maj. Kevin Branch, HHC commander. "PMI not only goes through the safety procedures and the maintenance procedures, but it also teaches you how to fire your weapon, how to properly engage targets."

PMI represents Phase I of the Army's Basic Rifle Marksmanship program. While many Soldiers in combat-oriented units have the chance to train with their weapons on a regular basis, headquarters companies typically perform more deskbound duties.

This annual training gives them a chance to temporarily trade their Rolodexes for rifles.

"We have a professional team of trained instructors available at this installation, and we're taking advantage of it," said Branch.

During the next several days of annual training, these Soldiers are scheduled to test what they've learned in PMI by firing simulated rounds in the computer-controlled Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) 2000, and live rounds at the zero and qualification ranges here.

"We're going to get out there and blow some targets down," Branch promised.

Every Soldier in the Army Reserve has an annual requirement to qualify with his or her assigned weapon, regardless of what type of unit in which he or she serves.

While these Soldiers are required to be able to qualify with their weapons, they aren't expected to perform like a seasoned infantry platoon. The PMI team takes a realistic approach to training by making adjustments to their classes on a unit-by-unit basis.

"Our instructors tailor the training to the group that we are training," explained Schwab. "If there's a person who really hasn't had much hands-on experience, we bring it down to a point where it's like a Basic Training Soldier and teach them every aspect of the weapon that we can possibly teach them in a four-hour block of instruction."

"If we have an individual who's an expert with the weapon, we tell them it is a refresher for them, to pay attention, and if they have any add-ons to feel free to go ahead and add to the class," he added.

HHC members seemed grateful to not only have the chance to train in the basic Soldier skills of marksmanship, but to have qualified and experienced instructors on hand to administer that training.

"It's an invaluable tool that we have with these classes," said Branch.