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37th TRSS CATM instructors guide students with skill, precision

Trainee gets feedback on marksmanship

A Basic Military Training trainee receives feedback during practice and qualification as Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructor Ladelious Little rates her marksmanship at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Training Annex, Texas, Aug. 10, 2021. CATM instructors qualify at least 3,500 BMT trainees a month, along with training and evaluating Airmen throughout JBSA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Agnes Koterba)

Trainees in CATM classroom learning clearing procedures on M4s

Basic Military Training trainees participate in classroom instruction with M4 carbines as an instructor reviews clearing procedures at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Training Annex, Texas, Aug. 10, 2021. Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructors qualify at least 3,500 BMT trainees a month, along with training and evaluating Airmen throughout JBSA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Agnes Koterba)

Trainees at firing range.

Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructors ensure proper techniques and safety protocols are used as Basic Military Training trainees practice shooting M4 carbines at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Training Annex, Texas, Aug. 10, 2021. CATM instructors qualify at least 3,500 BMT trainees a month, along with training and evaluating Airmen throughout JBSA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Agnes Koterba)

CATM instructor inspects trainees' weapons

Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructor, Staff Sgt. Michael Weldon, inspects weapons after they are cleaned by Basic Military Training trainees at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Training Annex, Texas, Aug.10, 2021. CATM instructors qualify at least 3,500 BMT trainees a month, along with training and evaluating Airmen throughout JBSA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Agnes Koterba)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-CHAPMAN TRAINING ANNEX, Texas --

Headlights illuminate a winding, dark road against the backdrop of what resembles the Texas countryside. With no building or person in sight, this single road leads to a wide-open space with one building and one purpose.

When others are just getting ready for the workday, 37th Training Support Squadron Combat Weapons Flight security forces specialists are already prepped for the day.

Early mornings and late nights are the norms for Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructors who qualify at least 3,500 Basic Military Training trainees a month.

“They think you just go to the range and shoot all day and that’s definitely not the case,” said Tech. Sgt. AustinLane Montgomery, 37th TRSS CATM instructor.

Serving JBSA as the largest CATM agency Air Force-wide, instructors train and evaluate everyone from beginners to expert shooters.

 “We are the heart of the Air Force,” Montgomery said. “We do the best we can to push out the best product we can.”

More than half the week is reserved for BMT trainees who must qualify with a score ranging from 12 to 24 rounds out of a total of 76 rounds. A score ranging from 22 to 24 rounds qualifies them as expert shooters.

Trainees must be able to shoot from the following positions to qualify: prone supported, prone unsupported, kneeling supported, and over barricade.

There are students new to shooting and those who have used a gun before, but still need added guidance to use a weapon proficiently and safely. Careful consideration for individual ability levels -- along with alert eyes and ears -- are a must for instructors.

“You have to adapt how to teach consistently,” said Carol Francis, 37th TRSS CATM Instructor.

Whether or not there’s a learning curve, Francis said, “It makes you feel good as an instructor that you helped.”

Regardless of experience, each trainee must participate in both classrooms and live firing instruction and qualification. Completing the M-4 Rifle Initial Skills Course of Fire is one of seven BMT graduation core requirements.

BMT students begin the day receiving previously inspected weapons for classroom study.

From there, trainees form up to march to the firing range where they practice and then test for marksmanship.

One cannot ignore the loud and steady pops that echo in the morning throughout the firing range.

“It takes a lot more skill than raising your hand and saying fire,” explained Staff Sgt. Richard Rosa, 37th TRSS CATM instructor.

Shortly after qualification, BMT trainees bring in their weapons for disassembly and cleaning.

Though BMT trainees train throughout the week, two days are reserved for base-wide instruction and evaluation, including time for security forces training.

Instructors adjust from one learning style to another, accommodating to the needs of those being taught or evaluated. With processes in place and the day broken down into different areas of instruction, the utmost safety of every individual is always top of mind.

“I’m a people person and teaching people about weapons is second nature,” Rosa said.

In addition to training, instructors also conduct weapons inspections, safety checks, maintain range operations, and ensure smooth transitions between the armory and supply.

As trainees line in formation for the march back to BEAST they leave equipped with new knowledge for the battlefield. They may not realize it, but they’ve just exemplified the CATM instructors’ unofficial creed: “We train in peace, to prepare for war.”

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