The line is ready ... fire!
By Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 16, 2010
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Instructors at the Whiteman Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Shop provide more than just firearms training for Airmen.
"We provide offensive and defensive life-saving skills for Airmen deploying down-range and Airmen required to carry weapons here," said Staff Sgt. John Williams, 509th Security Forces Squadron CATM scheduler.
Nine-Airmen-strong, Whiteman CATM instructors are primarily responsible for the training of active duty Whiteman Airmen, however, if the need arises, they can also train servicemembers from neighboring bases and Whiteman's tenant units.
CATM instructors provide weapon safety, nomenclature, description, characteristics, ammunitions, handling, clearing procedures, loading, unloading, malfunctions, field stripping, cleaning and firing training of all small arms weapons required to be carried by Whiteman personnel.
"We all attend special courses that not only teach us more about the weapons, but also how to train other Airmen," Sergeant Williams said.
In addition to providing M-16A2 rifle/M-4 carbine and M-9 pistol training, CATM instructors also provide training for the M-203 grenade launcher, M-249 light machine gun and the M-240B machine gun four days a month. CATM instructors usually provide M-11 practical pistol, MK-19 grenade launcher and M-870 shotgun throughout the year or on a case-by-case basis.
"Our training plays a very important role in the deployment of Airmen," Sergeant Williams said. "We ensure individuals receive the most accurate weapon information and training available. We also ensure all deploying member's weapons are inspected and operational."
Each weapon CATM trains on has unique classroom and firing requirements. Airmen are usually required to wear ballstic gear and gas masks when firing at CATM. The M-4 and M-203 qualifying courses require a portion of night firing.
"We go over the whole weapon, from function to assembly, to aiming and firing," Sergeant Williams said. "The object is to teach Airmen how the weapon works so that in the field if the weapon fails to fire, the Airman can quickly fix the problem and return fire."
Not knowing the proper procedure can cause an Airman to waste precious time during a fire fight and in some cases can mean the difference between life and death, he said.
CATM instructors do more than just train Airmen to fire weapons.
"We are also responsible for several different weapons inspections and maintenance of more than 3,500 weapons at Whiteman," Sergeant Williams said. "We track and provide parts to ensure they are available for weapon repair as soon as possible to return a weapons to operational status."
Instructors at CATM also provide weapons demonstrations during special events such as Operation Spirit.
To become an instructor, 509th SFS Airmen must apply for an open position and are put through an interview and selection process. If selected, instructors must complete a nine and a half week combat arms technical school.
"Working with CATM is a unique opportunity," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Bendele, 509th SFS CATM weapons inspections. "As a patrolman I knew very little about the weapon other than safety and basic function. After learning more about my weapon's components and function, I have improved my skills 100 percent."