The smell of gunpowder in the air, the sound of brass bullets hitting the ground and the feeling of accomplishment is just a small taste of what it feels like when you enter the 56th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Training and Maintenance range at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
For many Airmen, when they receive orders for a deployment or permanent change of station, part of their out-processing often requires them to take a qualification course to properly maintain and fire a weapon.
“What we are hoping to accomplish at CATM is to make sure that everyone receives the most effective training possible in case they are ever in a situation where they need to deploy a weapon,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Jones, 56 SFS Combat Arms Instructor. “We want to make sure that everyone who comes through our qualification course can utilize and maintain a weapon if needed.”
Training begins in the classroom focusing on mechanical features, characteristics, familiarizations, weapon effectiveness, ammunition types and specific firing positions before Airmen are brought to the range to put the techniques into practice.
“While out on the range we make sure that the students can actually demonstrate different fundamentals and marksmanship techniques,” Jones explained. “Whether it be firing from a kneeling position, reloading or basic safety, the range is where everything comes together.”
On average, CATM qualifies 50 to 70 Airmen per month. Weapons that Airmen can qualify with vary from the M9 pistol, M4 carbine, M203 grenade launcher, M240 Bravo machine gun and the M249 machine gun.
“CATM was awesome,” said 1st Lt. Christian Pisanelli, 310th Fighter Squadron student pilot. “I enjoyed shooting and we had outstanding instructors. They gave us good techniques on how to stay calm and control your breathing. Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to do it again if I get the chance.”
In order to qualify at CATM, Airmen must have official paperwork from their unit training manager.
“My favorite part of the job is seeing people maintain their quality of training,” Jones said. “They come in nervous, but by the time we hit the range their confidence is already higher and they feel better about themselves and the qualifications they are receiving.”
At the 56th Fighter Wing, training is the foundation of everything we do. Daily training, conducted in realistic environments, under realistic circumstances, ensures our forces maintain the highest levels of proficiency and readiness for worldwide deployment.