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Missouri National Guard’s 35th Engineers qualify on weapon ranges
Missouri National Guard’s 35th Engineers qualify on weapon ranges

Spc. Matthew White fires his M16 downrange at pop-up targets during the Missouri National Guard 35th Engineer Brigade's weapons qualification at Fort Leonard Wood.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 8, 2009) — Members of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 35th Engineer Brigade went to the weapons range last weekend to qualify with the M-16 rifle, M-249 machine gun and M-9 pistol.

Sgt. Sayanara Soth of Waynesville, who qualified with a 26, said she enjoyed the range time.

“It’s fun because you get to complete different areas of your soldiering skills,” she said. “You practice your tactical skills, like shooting.”

The hands-on training definitely beats classroom or drill floor training, Soth said.

“It’s just a change of pace and it brings you back out into the field, which is always good for readiness,” said Soth.

All 64 members of the company qualified with the M-16, while three out of three qualified with the M-249 and 19 out of 19 qualified with the M-9.

For M-16 qualification, soldiers shot 20 rounds from a prone supported position, 10 rounds from a prone unsupported position and 10 rounds from a kneeling position. They needed to score 23 out of 40 on a timed, pop-up target range to qualify. Soldiers with a score of 30 to 36 are sharpshooters, while 37 or above are experts.

Capt. Lawrence Adrian of Osceola was one of two soldiers to earn expert honors with a 37.

“I’ve been shooting most of my life, and several years ago I taught some shooting sports for the Optimists Club,” Adrian said. “It’s just a hobby. I generally shoot in the 30s, but I haven’t ever hit 40. I miss a couple.”

The last time the unit qualified on American soil was in May 2007 during pre-mobilization at Fort McCoy, Wis., while the unit was preparing to deploy to Iraq. Adrian said he had a 35 then.

The most difficult position to fire from, Adrian said, is the kneeling position.

“You are totally unsupported and, obviously, there is more wobble involved with that,” he said.

Spc. Ronan Ansley of Rolla was one of 22 sharpshooters in the unit with a 31.

“That’s pretty average for me. It’s between that and expert most of the time,” Ansley said.

On the range, targets pop up randomly for a few seconds at a time from a range of 50 to 300 meters, which makes firing accurately much more challenging than shooting repeatedly at a traditional stationary target.

“Probably the biggest obstacle for people to overcome is when you shift and change positions, because that changes the position of the rifle on your shoulder and against these interceptor body armor vests,” Adrian said. “It makes it a lot harder to shoot with these vests on.

“You just have to be mentally aware of keeping the butt stock in the same spot. It’s something you have to pay attention to.”

Ansley, who works on the post’s ranges as a member of range control for his civilian job, said the key is knowing where to hit each target.

“Each range has a different spot that you have to hit — it changes depending on the range, so you’ve got to know what to do with it,” Ansley said.

On this range, Ansley told his fellow soldiers to shoot low and take their time.

“This range, you most definitely shoot at the base of the target instead of actually trying for the middle of the target,” he said. “The 50-meter targets stay up for three seconds, but when you are out there, it seems a lot longer.”

Soth said the key for her is to remember her training.

“You’ve just got to make sure that every time you switch to the different targets, you are still using all of your basic principles to shoot it down,” she said.

The unit also had three soldiers score expert and seven sharpshooter on the M-9 range.

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