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821st CRS Airman trains to be counter sniper

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

Airman 1st Class Ryan McCarthy, 821st Contingency Response Squadron defender, recently graduated from the Close Precision Engagement Course at Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 4.

The 19-day course teaches advanced marksmanship and military scouting skills to Air Force security forces members, whose career field specializes in the protection of Air Force personnel and resources. They are charged with protecting flight lines and other sensitive places and are trained to remove the threat of snipers that could damage or destroy aircraft.

Usually to be selected for the course, Airmen in the squadron compete during the Advanced Designated Marksman course, 11-days of training that familiarizes them with the M-24 weapon system. But due to on-going contingencies in the squadron, McCarthy was one of the few defenders remaining.

A week before the course started, McCarthy traveled to Beale AFB, California, to get familiar with the weapon system.

“When I traveled to Beale to get familiar with the M-24, it was my first time ever firing a long rifle,” he said. “It took me until the second day to get comfortable and confident with the weapon system.”

McCarthy went on to say not firing the weapon before helped him because he didn’t have any bad habits to break during the training. 

All Air Force counter snipers use the M-24 weapons system. It is composed of the M-24 rifle with an M-3A telescopic sight. It fires the standard 175 grain NATO 7.62 round.

On the first day he arrived, students were curious and asked the instructors what the course dropout rates were. He explained the instructors looked at them and said ‘we’ve had classes where everyone passed and we’ve had classes where everyone has failed.’

 From that point on McCarthy knew he couldn’t let himself return to the CRW without completing the course.

“Every day during every smoke session or anything else challenging we went through, I just told myself this is the last thing I have to do for the day, fight through it,” he said. “I always knew there was something else I had to do, but that’s what I told myself to get through it.”

Smoke sessions are work outs to include push-ups, weapon raises, lunges and a number of other exercises to cause an individual to experience muscle failure.

During smoke sessions or other exercises, instructors conducted a drill known as Kim's Game to test students' ability to focus under pressure and while fatigued. During the game, students would be shown ten random objects in a variety of settings, for a short period of time and the students would be tested on them later.

“The course is not only physically challenging, but mentally challenging as well,” McCarthy said. “Throughout the day the instructors would continuously put us through memorization challenges while we were getting smoked or performing other exercises. Days later the instructors would pull out a piece of paper and have us draw what we saw and it had to be the exact color and dimensions.”

Throughout the course, instructors taught the class the skills required of a sniper. This included an immersive course on the M-24, the military's primary sniper rifle. Other skills included target detection, range estimation, and camouflage and concealment.

“Known distance shooting was definitely the hardest part of the course for me,” he said. “During this portion of the course, the targets started to move and full body targets became side profiles. Unfortunately, three of my classmates failed during this period.”

 McCarthy class started with 10 Airmen, but only graduated three.  

“You don’t come across too many Airmen that possess the type of qualities that Airman McCarthy has, he’s truly one of a kind,” said Tech Sgt. Christofer Galbadores, 821st CRS force protection team lead. “He attacks every task thrown at him relentlessly and with ease. I was confident he had all the qualities to get through a rigorous course such as CPEC. The ability to think on his feet, high physical fitness standards, a strong will and the ability to soak in new information like a sponge are just a few of them. I am proud to serve with an Airman of his caliber.”