Sustainers take shot at new Army qualification standards

Staff Sgt. Joseph H. Miya, an advanced culinary noncommissioned officer assigned to Headquarters Support Company, 100th Brigade Support Battalion, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Sill, Okla., takes aim with his M4 carbine during a weapons qualification event Jan. 23. The HSC Soldiers were using new qualification standards the Army introduced recently as a replacement for requirements that have existed since the Cold War era.

FORT SILL, Okla. – Soldiers assigned to Headquarters Support Company, 100th Brigade Support Battalion, 75th Field Artillery Brigade, took a shot at meeting the Army’s new M16 rifle and M4 carbine qualification standards during a range training event here Jan. 23.

Replacing a system that has existed since the Cold War era, the new marksmanship course requires Soldiers to engage targets faster and in a variety of firing positions they are more likely to encounter with today’s enemy engagements.

“The goal of implementing a new marksmanship standard is to increase weapons proficiency in real terms, which translates to more combat lethality,” said 2nd Lt. Luke L. Hamann, the HSC’s field feeding platoon leader. “The legacy qualification course proved to be satisfactory at the tactical level in the Global War on Terrorism. The aim of the new tables is to elicit stress and force the Soldier to utilize processes such as firing position transitions and magazine changes to more closely simulate actual combat maneuvers.”

The updated qualification is comprised of four stages: day fire; day fire with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear equipment; assisted night fire; and assisted night fire with CBRN gear. It still requires Soldiers to engage 40 individual targets at varying distances.

Soldiers begin the qualification in a standing position. Upon engaging the first target, they change their position and deal with additional targets in a timely manner. This is in contrast to the old system where firers remained mostly stationary until instructed to change positions by range personnel.

“(It) more closely aligns with what our downrange troops have done and learned over the past 10 years of combat, making it to where it fits the entire Army as a collective force and results in a more proficient marksman,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert K. Fortenberry, head of the Infantry School’s marksmanship revamp project, in an interview with Army Times.

“You’re employing the weapon system in a more tactical environment or scenario versus the traditional way of doing it,” he also said. “By doing so, it creates additional rigor using all of the elements of critical thinking, sound judgment (and) adapting to change – all of those non-tangible attributes. ... The clock doesn’t stop, so you have to constantly think, ‘Boom! Got that exposure. Okay. I should be transitioning to the kneeling position now. Transition. There it is! Boom!’ You’re just engaging as you go.”

Soldiers will still earn three different proficiencies when qualifying: Marksman, awarded for hitting at least 23 out of 40 targets; Sharpshooter, 30 out of 40 targets; and Expert, 36 or more out of 40 total targets.

“The advice we give to Soldiers when there are multiple targets is to shoot the closest one first,” said Hamann. “If they miss, they reach a decision point – shoot another round at the close target and be short on ammo to attempt every target or skip it and attempt to hit all other targets. In that sense, it’s not much different than the legacy qualification. I believe the Army implemented multiple targets to elicit the critical thinking required while shooting.”

All of the information about the new course of fire can be found in the TC 3-20.40 “Training and Qualification Individual Weapons.”