Requirements updated for new Rifle Qualification Course

By Tech. Sgt. Tanya King, 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs on September 21, 2012

Passing the Air Force's new Rifle Qualification Course just got a little more challenging for 446th Airlift Wing Reservists.

In November 2011, the Air Force began rolling out an updated rifle fire course for the M-4, which is the assault rifle replacing the M-16 as the standard-issue deployment weapon. The new standards and training were implemented at JBLM McChord Field in July.

"The principles of instruction haven't changed in the course," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Becker, 446th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructor. "The primary changes are on the range."

The course will still include basic weapon skills such as loading and clearing, assembly and disassembly, basic rifle marksmanship, and preventative maintenance. Changes include using dummy rounds to simulate a jammed weapon, tactical movements with a loaded weapon, and multiple target engagement. In addition, there are stringent time constraints and wearing the combat helmet and body armor are now required.

"This new course is challenging and requires participants to step outside their comfort zone while rising to the challenges they might face in a real-world situation," said Becker. "People have a good understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. They have to apply what they've learned in the classroom in a more direct way." "I like the new training; it's reinforced everything I've learned in my career and it's more in line with what the other services are using," said recent course participant Master Sgt. Ray Escott, 446th Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight section chief. "When I first came in the Air Force 23 years ago, we fired for a short time at one target. Now the training incorporates moving and multiple targets. Realistically, this is closer to what we'd be facing in a combat situation."

Becker encourages students like Escott, who hasn't fired a weapon in five years and has never fired the M-4.

"As an instructor, I can usually tell in the classroom who is getting it and who needs more time before we get to the range. Some students need to handle their weapon more to let the training sink in," Becker said. "My goal is for everyone to be qualified and go home with the knowledge so they can go on to the next step. For some, that might mean a deployment, for others it might mean having a better understanding of the weapon system in general."

Though Escott hunts and is familiar with many types of firearms, this training introduced him to firing a weapon in a tactical situation.

"The old training didn't incorporate using the weapon in burst mode or firing while moving," Escott said. "This is likely what we'd be doing if we actually needed to use our weapon. The training used to be pretty generic, but I think they made some good changes to the training."

Becker advises his students to pay attention to both the fundamentals and safety, des-pite any changes to the curriculum.

"The better able you are to fire your weapon safely and accurately, the more likely you are to use that weapon effectively in a combat situation," he said. "It's a sobering thought and we hope our students never have to use their weapons, but there is always the chance they will. It's our job as CATM instructors to make sure they are able to use the training we give them in a way that saves lives."


Jami K. Lancette

Staff Sgt. Alasdair Earley, 434th SFS combat arms specialist, monitors other 434th SFS Airmen as they fire their M-4 carbine rifles during a recent weapons training event held on JBLM. Earley and other SFS Airmen participated in the training that is meant to keep them ready to deploy around the world at a moment’s notice.