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Line is Ready: Fire!

  • Published
  • By Airman Erika Brooke
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Every year approximately 7,000 Airmen complete a Combat Arms Training and Maintenance course at RAF Feltwell; training ensures Airmen based in the U.K. are prepared to complete the Air Force mission in combat.

"No matter who you are, no matter what job you have, when you deploy you are now a soldier. You hold a firearm and bear responsibility for the security and lives of those around you...this solidifies what we do here each day," said Master Sgt. Gerald Williams, NCO in charge at RAF Feltwell combat arms training.

Once Airmen reserve a seat in a particular combat arms training class, they must arrive early, as classroom doors shut promptly at 8 a.m. As with any mission on an Air Force installation, safety comes first and instructors require all Airmen to be physically and mentally capable of completing the task at hand. Before stepping out on the firing line, Airmen engage in three hours of rigorous hands-on instruction in the classroom. The students review assembly, inspection, gauging, firing positions, maintenance, and safe and quick reactions to weapon malfunction. After the three-hour class, Airmen are permitted to lock and load on the firing line.

One instructor is responsible for five students, with another instructor in the tower overlooking the students, to eliminate mistakes and guarantee safety. The instructors' knowledge and coaching is tested on the firing line as they watch the trainees put knowledge into action. On the firing line, Airmen get a chance to work out kinks in weapons management.

"This is the time to ask questions. You can't raise your hand in Iraq when you're on the front line," said Tech. Sgt. Gary Baker assistant NCO in charge and combat arms instructor at RAF Feltwell.

Only nine combat arms instructors are assigned to the firing range at RAF Feltwell. The limited number of CATM instructors can create a challenge when making an appointment to qualify. The students are scheduled on a priority basis. Airmen heading down range are at the top of the list, followed by the security forces members needing the Tactical Rifle Qualification Course, and Airmen requiring annual qualifications.

The recurring training for security forces troops includes guidance in various weapons such as the M4, M9, M16 and the MA70. CATM instructors offer a night firing class to security forces troops to ensure accuracy, day or night.

The CATM instructors are not only responsible for training troops. They inspect and send one-fifth of the weapons here down range for each Air Expeditionary Force rotation.

They also deploy two at a time to form the counterpart to an existing deployed armory, and to repair any weapons in their designated area.

The knowledge troops obtain at the combat arms facility helps keep Airmen safe on deployments and on the job.