By Sgt. Austan R. OwenFebruary 28, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- An empty magazine strikes the dirt, a boot steps over it. Repeating movements that have been drilled into him over time, the Soldier raises his carbine rifle and engages two "enemy" and avoids one "friendly" target. The lane safety slaps him on the back, and he moves on to his next station. Alpha Company's day has just begun.
Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, conducted a Short Range Marksmanship range Feb. 16, where infantry Soldiers practiced buddy team movement drills, shoot/don't shoot scenarios and close contact drills.
Moving through a potentially dangerous environment to accomplish a tough job, requires training and composure.
"Before basic training I had never even fired a weapon," said Pfc. Zachary Krider, rifleman, A Co., "Now I feel comfortable with my M4, it is a part of me."
Soldiers paired up in teams; one of them moves forward while the other fires their weapon at the target suppressing a simulated enemy. Bounding ahead the two-man team alternates between firing and moving to cover. Mixed into the range are silhouette targets with colored plates stapled to them, red indicating an enemy combatant and blue indicating a civilian on the battlefield. The pair advance and engage the targets, placing four rounds in each of the enemy silhouettes while not shooting the blue targets.
All of these scenarios are the textbook embodiment of what an infantryman does and learns in preparation for combat operations.
"I like to bring a lot of the lessons that I learned in my previous deployments to the table," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Fairchild, 2nd Platoon Sgt., A Co.
"This range is designed to make them think on their feet," said Fairchild, who helped design the range. "Think, think, think, that is what we are trying to instill because your mind is the biggest weapon Soldiers have in battle."
The infantrymen are on the ground in a combat situation and are the ones most likely to interact with the public and engage the enemy while on foot said Sgt. Tyler Wiggins, team leader, A Co.
"Our job is to maneuver on the enemy and eliminate the threat," said Wiggins. "You can't maneuver effectively without learning the fundamentals that are taught on this range."
"We don't want to find ourselves in a position where Soldiers have to learn the basic infantry techniques in a firefight; it's too late by then," said Wiggins. "That is why we emphasize the basics so much. We teach these Soldiers how to use their brain, how to think under pressure. A lot of people forget how to react and think when the adrenaline is pumping."
Through constant training and live-fire ranges like this Soldiers become proficient in their warrior tasks. The movements and skills become second nature allowing them to react to the situation without having to think of what their hands or feet are doing.
"Muscle memory takes over after awhile," said Krider, a Bel Air, Md., native. "These ranges help hone and sharpen all of our basic combat skills."
"I think I am ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemy now."