Weapons training within range

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mark A. Winklosky
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Nearly 60 members from the 911th Security Forces Squadron, including combat arms instructors, headed approximately 100 miles south to the West Virginia Army National Guard Training Center, known as Camp Dawson, August 10-14, 2020.


Camp Dawson, located in Kingwood, West Virginia, has been used annually by the 911 SFS since 2015 to conduct heavy weapons qualifications on the M240B machine gun, M249 light machine gun and M203 grenade launcher. The combat arms team also takes advantage of the Modular Firing Ranges for the M9 pistol and M4 carbine to help build speed and accuracy skills with the use of the pop-up target systems there.


According to Master Sgt. Kenneth Craft, 911 SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of combat arms, more than 1,200 members from the 911 SFS have received weapons qualifications at Dawson since 2015.


“The uniqueness and variety of ranges at Camp Dawson and its proximity to Pittsburgh, make it a perfect location for members to become familiar with weapons most of them have never handled before,” said Craft.  “This type of training provides members with an opportunity to hone various weapons skills required to become proficient and perform in the security forces career field.”


While at Camp Dawson, SFS personnel used three of the 10 ranges available for qualification training.  The M240B machine gun and M249 light machine gun, although distinctly different calibers with the 7.62 x 51mm and 5.56 x 45mm, respectively, require a range capable of handling these weapons and the fire power they disperse. The M240B can put out 650-950 rounds per minute, while the M249 throws 750-1000 rpm downrange.


Personnel were also able to receive qualifications on the single-shot 40mm under-barrel M203 grenade launcher at one of the other ranges set up for the weapon.  With several barricades in place, members were able to launch non-explosive grenades at distances from 150 yards out to nearly 300 yards.  Once launched, the non-explosive grenades break open on impact and mark the point of impact with a bright orange dust.  This helps the shooter adjust elevation and windage to align for the next round to be launched.


The Modified Record Fire Range tested the shooters skills on the M4 carbine at mixed distances and intervals from 50 meters to 300 meters.  The pop-up target system builds members’ skills at acquiring targets more quickly and addresses the issue of judging distances.


According to Senior Master Sgt. Justin Hovancik, 911 SFS operations superintendent, these ranges help Airmen understand the capabilities of the weapon at various distances with crosswinds and elevations.


“The MRF provides realistic training,” said Hovancik. “You’ve heard the saying, ‘train like we fight.’ This is one of those training environments where we actually train like we fight,” he said.


“It also allows leadership to hone their skills as if in a deployed environment,” said Hovancik.  “It’s essentially like we’re deploying with personnel and equipment.  It helps the whole squadron’s mission readiness”


Wing leadership took advantage of Camp Dawson’s proximity to Pittsburgh and spent a day and a half observing the training taking place.


“It was awesome to get out and interact with the Airmen and witness the professionalism and skill demonstrated by the CATM instructors and the enthusiasm displayed by the Security Forces team,” said Col. John Robinson, 911th Airlift Wing commander.


According to Master Sgt. Craft, there were 220 total weapons qualifications with 92,610 rounds fired.