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USAMU teaches skills in Baghdad

The firing range was located on the grounds of Baghdad International Airport. Surrounded by steep berms on three sides, the sharp crack of gunfire echoed out through the palm trees.

The weapons being used varied greatly from M-9 pistols to M-4 carbines to M-249 squad automatic weapons. But, what these arms all had in common was that the Soldiers wielding them were being trained in shooting technique by Soldiers of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit of Fort Benning, Ga.

The USAMU instructors are in Iraq to teach and demonstrate the potential every Soldier has as a rifleman. The main focus of this training is educating Soldiers on how to fire, move and negotiate with their Army issued weapons.

“This is advanced close quarters marksmanship,” said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Gibbs, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the USAMU Service Pistol Team. “We don’t teach tactics, we teach marksmanship technique.”

The USAMU instruction is set up as a “train the trainer” exercise. The shooters then take these new practices back to their units and teach them to others at smaller ranges.

The USAMU instructors have to conduct training this way because there are simply not enough instructors to teach these techniques to all the units that need them.

“What we’re doing here is strictly offense,” explained Staff Sgt. Aaron Hampton, USAMU service pistol instructor and shooter, “how to move, shoot effectively and keep moving.”

Shooting while moving, either on foot or in a vehicle is stressed in this training. Hampton explained that unlike marksmanship qualification ranges where there is one firing point, this training introduces the concept that both the target and the shooter may be moving.

“It’s total training—shooting, accuracy, movement left and right, up and down—things that you might encounter while out on the streets,” said Hampton.

For many of the students, this is the most time they’ve spent shooting on a single day.

“This is very fast paced; it keeps Soldiers interested,” said Staff Sgt. Gary Harris a military policeman with the 1st Platoon, 501st Military Police Company. “You shoot a lot of rounds and that’s always good when you get to shoot.”

Harris admitted that he was having fun, but also knew that he was learning an invaluable combat skill.

“You never know when a threat is going to pop up two meters from you, and you’re going to have to engage; it’s very effective training,” Harris explained.

Although the USAMU instruction highlights stealth and quickness, the students have to be precise.

“In this type of environment, it’s really good to be able to shoot fast and accurately,” Harris said, “But it doesn’t do any good if you shoot 10 rounds in two seconds if you’re not hitting anything.

“And, the students have ample amounts of brass to send downrange to practice their shots. You come out here and shoot a thousand rounds in a few hours,” said Harris with a wide grin. “It’s very fun.”

By Spc. ANDREW MEISSNER/1st Armored Div. Public Affairs Offiice

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