Soldiers of the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion took their weapons training to a public range on their Safety Stand-Down Day to obtain first-hand knowledge of guns that are not standard U.S. Army issue.

"These range activities provided a hands-on approach for the Soldiers to familiarize themselves with several types of weapon possibilities," said Chief Warrant Officer-2 John Flores, who helped organize the event.

He explained that he wanted to expose the battalion's Soldiers to weapons other than the Army's standard issue M16A2 because this training could assist Soldiers deployed overseas in scenarios wherein familiarity with other weapons becomes a matter of life or death.

Flores led coordination of the training event on behalf of the battalion with Kathy Morningside and Carol Hester of the Bullet Hole Shooting Range. Flores and 1st Lt. Alexandr D'Agostino, range safety officer for the training, said the shooting range met all their size and training requirements, which included separate ranges for rifles, pistols and shotguns.

The battalion assembled at the Bullet Hole March 9. Before commencing any shooting, the Soldiers received briefings for each of the ranges. They then proceeded to familiarize themselves with various weapons and fire them with one-on-one guidance from fellow Soldiers. Among the weapons were an AK47, an M4 with sniper scope, a Glock 19 handgun and a Stevens 350 12-gauge shotgun.

After the shooting stopped, the Soldiers received classroom instruction from Capt. Mike Tacquard of the Texas Highway Patrol. Tacquard covered Texas gun laws, focusing on applications of the Castle Doctrine, which allows people to use deadly force to defend their homes under specified circumstances, and the state's driving-while-intoxicated laws as a bonus.
A retired Air Force chief master sergeant who works at the THP Tactical Training Center, Tacquard said THP also works with numerous civic groups on topics ranging from child safety to concealed hand guns, stressing public safety awareness.

Tacquard offered advice to Soldiers when they find themselves in other states. "Always check with local authorities wherever you are stationed to obtain clarification of laws," he said. "Don't listen to the guy next door. His information is generally incorrect, and if you follow it, you will find yourself in trouble with the authorities and in your military career. Do your own research."

D'Agostino said the shooting range event was part of dynamic hands-on safety program to engage, challenge and motivate Soldiers that was implemented by the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Joe Barber, with the guidance of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade commander, Col. Pierre Gervais.

"Soldiers were equipped not only with the skills to fire weapons but also with the knowledge of their rights, responsibilities and possible consequences if they ever discharge their privately owned weapon in self-defense," said Flores about the training day.