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Ready, aim, fire!

Department of Defense; DoD; Kadena Air Base; Kadena; Pacific; Pacific Air Force; Air Force; Japan; PACAF; PACOM; 5AF; 5th Air Force; USFJ; United States Forces Japan; People; Aircraft; KAB; Air Power; USAF; United States Air Force; Pacific Command

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Morrow, 18 Force Support Squadron mail clerk, fires at the target during a combat arms qualification course Dec. 6, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Combat arms at Kadena conducts a class daily for qualification on either the M4 carbine or M9 pistol. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Department of Defense; DoD; Kadena Air Base; Kadena; Pacific; Pacific Air Force; Air Force; Japan; PACAF; PACOM; 5AF; 5th Air Force; USFJ; United States Forces Japan; People; Aircraft; KAB; Air Power; USAF; United States Air Force; Pacific Command

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tess Sunderlin, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment, fires at the target during a combat arms qualification course Dec. 6, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The course is crucial for Airmen, as qualification requirements vary based on AFSC, with some having to qualify every year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Department of Defense; DoD; Kadena Air Base; Kadena; Pacific; Pacific Air Force; Air Force; Japan; PACAF; PACOM; 5AF; 5th Air Force; USFJ; United States Forces Japan; People; Aircraft; KAB; Air Power; USAF; United States Air Force; Pacific Command

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jabrail Chapman, 18th Force Support Squadron NCO-in-charge official mail center, adjusts the iron sights on an M4 carbine during a combat arms qualification course Dec. 6, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Combat arms at Kadena conducts a class daily for qualification on either the M4 carbine or M9 pistol. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Department of Defense; DoD; Kadena Air Base; Kadena; Pacific; Pacific Air Force; Air Force; Japan; PACAF; PACOM; 5AF; 5th Air Force; USFJ; United States Forces Japan; People; Aircraft; KAB; Air Power; USAF; United States Air Force; Pacific Command

Students fire at targets during a combat arms qualification course Dec. 6, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The firing portion lasts between three and four hours, with many different testing methods on stance, and magazine capacity for testing to simulate different real-world scenarios Airmen may face. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

Department of Defense; DoD; Kadena Air Base; Kadena; Pacific; Pacific Air Force; Air Force; Japan; PACAF; PACOM; 5AF; 5th Air Force; USFJ; United States Forces Japan; People; Aircraft; KAB; Air Power; USAF; United States Air Force; Pacific Command

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Sebastian Landivar, 18th Security Forces Squadron combat arms range safety officer, prepares to grade targets during a combat arms qualification course Dec. 6, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Students attend an all-day class to receive refresher training on weapon safety, how to load and unload the weapon, firing, and how to assemble and disassemble the weapon for cleaning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Training for the right moment is paramount to maintaining our position as the world’s greatest Air Force. On this day, like any other in Okinawa, a distinct sound can be heard after walking through the door at Combat Arms.

“FIRE!”

Moments later, loud bangs from rifles ring out, sending sound waves through the student’s bodies, the heart skips a beat and the only thing one can hear is the ringing in their ears from the pulled triggers. Welcome to combat arms qualification training.

The schedule for students attending the course was packed and started at 8:00 a.m. After arriving, the class meets their instructor for the day and proceeds to the armory to acquire their weapons. Training began with two to three hours of classroom instruction where students learned how to clear, load, unload, use, and clean their weapon.

Once the initial classroom portion is completed, the students head to lunch, and return ready to start firing qualifications.

Air Force personnel primarily qualify on the M4 carbine and the M9 pistol. However, the range here at Kadena can also support the M870 shotgun, M240 and M249 machine guns, M107 sniper rifle, as well as the M203 grenade launcher.

“The course is necessary for Airmen who are about to change stations, forward deploy, or for duty requirements,” said Staff Sgt. Seanice Thomas, 18th Security Forces Squadron combat arms range safety officer. 

“You have to have a need to come through the training, it’s not open to the public.”

Range qualification testing consists of multiple magazines with different numbers of bullets loaded for different scenarios and firing positions. This format helps simulate random situations that Airmen may encounter on the job or while deployed.

The qualification portion takes anywhere from three to four hours. This is the most crucial portion to determine proficiency of the Airmen.

According to, Staff Sgt. Sebastian Landivar, 18th SFS combat arms range safety officer, the stress of making sure your effort is good enough to qualify can weigh on the mind of many who take the course.

“A lot of folks are kind of scared, afraid of weapons, or don’t enjoy it,” Landivar said. “If you come in with a positive attitude, you’re able to make this day a lot better.”

By the end of the day however, the students really enjoyed the experience.

“My favorite part of the training was shooting on burst mode,” Staff Sgt. Tess Sunderlin, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment said. “You have to really focus to hit the target, and the adrenaline rush is really cool.”

Sunderlin also had words of encouragement for anyone who is scheduled to test.

“The line instructors are really helpful, they know what they’re doing, and I trust them,” Sunderlin said.

For Airmen who are still not convinced why the training is important, or maybe aren’t taking the day as serious as they’d like, Sunderlin also had this to say.

“Take the training seriously, because you never know when you’re going to have to forward deploy with somebody and use these skills,” Sunderlin said. “Pay attention, do your best, and don’t treat it as just a day off from work.”

The skills taught in the class are just another way that the 18th SFS combat arms section is able to help keep Team Kadena safe, and ultimately help the Air Force in producing the most capable, ready, and highly skilled Airmen able to fly, fight, and win.