Friday, November 11, 2005

Taking Aim at the Range

Even though we are in a combat setting--perhaps I should write, especially since we're in a combat setting--soldiers are still required to qualify on their respective personal and crew served weapons. This past week I spent a few days out on the range where our soldiers carefully zeroed and qualified on their M16s (semi-automatic rifle), 9mm pistols, M204 grenade launchers, M249 Squad assault Weapon (fully-automatic weapon, and 50 cal. machine gun (big bullets).

Zeroing consists of shooting practice rounds and adjusting a weapon's sights until one's "shot group" (which should already be tight) is aligned with the center of one's target. Once a soldier has zeroed on the M16 range, for example, he then goes to the qualifying range and shoots 40 rounds at a target with several different sized silhouettes on it. Soldiers must hit the silhouettes (no more than 4 times per silhouette) a minimum of 26 out of 40 times. It doesn't matter if a soldier spends the majority of his or her time behind a desk or serving food in the mess hall--all soldiers travel today's battlefield and must be prepared. As mentioned in earlier postings, military chaplains in the U.S. are non-combatants; we are not authorized to carry or fire weapons. This is contrary to my prior military training as a tanker and company armorer--not to mention my personal philosophy and theology, but I make covenants to do many things that are contrary to my initial instincts--so I consider it taking one for the team (as my brother-in-law likes to say). When soldiers express their disappointment for me I like to say that I am forfeiting my Second amendment rights to provide them their First amendment rights. In truth, the burden of weapons accountability and maintenance causes most soldiers to envy my obligation. But it all comes out in the wash, and every soldier does his part (or more) in bringing the fight to the desert. At the end of the day, all the soldiers qualified, and many of them did so expertly.

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