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Improvements shown in new weapons qualification course on Kadena
A U.S. Air Force Airman takes aim with his M-4 Carbine during pre-deployment weapon qualification at the Combat Arms firing range on Kadena Air Base, Japan, July 16, 2012. Air Force CA implemented a new qualification course Dec. 1, 2011, which is staged to give a more realistic feel to the students by incorporating a few new qualification portions, including movement and even three-round burst divisions. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Maeson L. Elleman)
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Improvements shown in new weapons qualification course

Posted 7/20/2012   Updated 7/20/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs

7/20/2012 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- It's been roughly eight months since the Air Force started its new qualification course for the M-4 Carbine, and Combat Arms instructors seem to have made great strides with the new curriculum.

The new course is staged to give a more realistic feel to the students by incorporating a few new qualification portions - six, to be exact, compared to the previous course, which had one - including movement and even three-round burst divisions.

"Overall, it's better," said Senior Airman Jonathan Goforth, 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hydraulics journeyman. "They have you doing more stuff than the old class. You do more than just standing and shooting; you're moving around and reloading."

Goforth, who endured the new course for the first time July 16 as part of pre-deployment training, said although it's more difficult, the new course was a great experience.

"It was faster-paced than the old course, but it's a really good class for somebody who's never taken it, or it's been a while since they've taken it," said Goforth.

Kadena began teaching the course a month prior to the Dec. 1, 2011, initiation deadline for the rest of the Air Force and has knocked most of the kinks out in the training, making it a prime example of course progress.

Though pass rates aren't quite up to par with the previous course yet, the new qualification has shown improvements in leaps and bounds since its first students fired their first rounds last year.

"It's not what it used to be with the old course of fire where you might have 80-90 percent of the class pass that initial time firing and 99 percent pass with the remedial training," said Tech. Sgt. Scott Jacobson, Combat Arms NCO in charge. "With the new course, when it originally started, it was probably 30-40 percent pass rate, so more than half the class was failing. We're now up to about 65-70 percent pass on the initial firing."

In order to see these results, Jacobson said functional managers from around the Air Force have taken data from the course over the past nine months in an effort to apply new teaching methods and improve processes.

"They've collected data off the course of fire - what's working for you? How many people are shooting? How many people are failing? How long is the course taking? That way they can tweak it as necessary," said Jacobson. "They've critiqued the course to see what changes they can make, and they've been doing that."

Though the qualification isn't quite as easy as before, Jacobson said the changes were necessary to bring more realism to the training of Airmen set to deploy.

"The old course of fire was pretty standard stuff," said Jacobson. "You were just firing prone supported position, prone unsupported, kneeling, over barricade - just general positions. Back in the Vietnam era, those would be good training positions to fire from, but now, Airmen are doing convoy patrols and getting out on dismounted foot patrols, so now we do more of a quick-reaction type of training."

The new focus on realism is something Jacobson said he wishes he'd had when he deployed in 2008-2009.

"I've been on a 365-day mission where we were on convoys outside the wire on foot patrols," he said. "After doing that, I see how much it would've helped me back then. The Airmen that are on those outside the wire missions and seeing the action, it's really helping them. It brings a realistic quality to the training."

For a more in-depth view of Combat Arms operations, view the video here.

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