Marksmanship training arms cadets with weaponry skills

Feb. 11, 2013

Samantha Morley
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White buses slowed to a stop on the side of the road. Cadets filed out of the vehicles. Before them, a command tower and several numbered foxholes. Soon, they were grabbing their helmets and earplugs, preparing themselves for a day of marksmanship training.

Donald Caughey, enrollment and scholarship officer for the Southern Colorado Army ROTC, explained that the Feb. 2 training was meant to teach cadets how to “group and zero.” It also provided an experience for seniors to train underclassmen.

Paper targets were positioned 25 meters from the foxholes. On the paper was a black silhouette where firers were supposed to hone their skills.

In the middle of the target was the zero mark. The goal of each shooter was to hit on – or close to – the zero mark within three shots. Each shot should also be in close range to the next, indicating the shooter was learning consistency.

Kayla DeJardin, MS4, and Elizabeth Hill, MS3, grouped their first shots within the lower left corner of the target, indicating their M-4 sights may need readjustment. “It’s common for right handed people to shoot in the lower left,” said Caughey.

Kimberly Copeley, a freshman nurse, fired her first gun that day. “It was unexpected,” she said. Because of her nursing course, Copeley missed a simulation training that would’ve instructed her with laser sights that showed simulated shots.

Instead, she practiced dry firing until she felt comfortable enough for the real thing. After the first round, she approached her target.

Two of the three shots hit the paper in the top and bottom left corners. With some instruction, realignment of sights and a few more rounds, Copeley tightened her shots to hit close to the zero mark.

“We also teach the cadets the four fundamentals of marksmanship,” said Lt. Col. Mark Thompson.

The fundamentals include a steady position, good aim, breath control and trigger squeeze. “We teach them to learn how to use their natural breathing while shooting,” he said.

During the firing, cadets with two-faced red and green signs signaled the command tower about the safety on the range.

If anyone was downrange while cadets were in their foxholes, the signs displayed red. Green indicated that everyone was in a safe position and shooters could fire when instructed to do begin.

Cadets switched on and off with their partners, each taking a turn in the foxhole. Once a firer displayed acceptable consistency and aim, the target could be removed.

The next task was to fire at a paper with several variously sized silhouettes. Large or small, each black shape was to contain four bullet holes.

A bit more familiar with the feel and operation of her M-4, Copeley summarized her experience as “eventful” but that she feels she still has a way to go.

“About 25 percent of cadets have never shot a gun before,” Thompson said.