Expeditionary Center armory fires up training for Airmen

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs
Aided by having the largest store of foreign weapons in the service, the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's armory and its staff help Airmen get more "bang for their buck" for pre-deployment training.

"In any 30-day span, we'll have from 50 to more than 800 guns out at any given time," said Tech. Sgt. Sean Heraty, assistant NCO in charge at the armory. "The number of students we arm up fluctuates month-to-month because of course schedules. That said, on a slow month, we could arm 270 students. On a busy month, we can arm close to 650 students. And those numbers don't even include those people who help out as opposing forces for training."

The armory supports many courses for the USAF EC including Air Force Exercise Eagle Flag, Advanced Contingency Skills Training, Air Advisor, Phoenix Warrior, Phoenix Raven and Contingency Response Mission Orientation. That's more than 7,000 students every year.

They also coordinate weapons qualification training for many Airmen on the USAF EC staff. However, it mainly supports instructors in the Center's 421st Combat Training Squadron.

"Unfortunately, though we are combat arms instructors, we are limited to the amount of qualification training we can support due to current course requirements placed on the section," said Tech. Sgt. Charles Glunt, NCO in charge of the armory. "Quite often, we work with the 305th Security Forces Squadron's combat arms section at McGuire (Air Force Base, N.J.) to get qualification training completed. For the 421st, however, we're required to maintain their qualifications on the weapons needed to conduct their various courses. Without the armory keeping the 421st qualified on their respected weapons, the cadre could not instruct the courses they teach."

There is no doubt the armory's caretakers are busy. However, they know they are providing a "great" service for their fellow Airmen to include an ever-increasing amount of live-fire training not available in many other training venues in the Air Force.

"The incorporation of live fire came with the Center's Phoenix Warrior course for deploying security forces in August 2006," Sergeant Glunt said. "It was determined that standard security forces members needed advanced firearms training beyond that of Air Force qualifications courses so the armory and its combat arms section developed an advanced combat rifle and pistol course designed to fill that gap. From there it has only grown."

To meet all of their requirements for students, courses and cadre, the armory is equipped with enough weapons to support a small army.

"Our armory has 48 different weapons systems," Sergeant Glunt said. "The inventory includes U.S. weapons systems such as M-4 and M-16A2 rifles, M-9 pistol, MK-19 automatic grenade launcher, M-2 .50-caliber machine gun and more."

Sergeant Glut said the armory holds 153 different types of foreign and non-standard weapons such as the AK-47, AK-74 and MAK-90 automatic rifles. It's because they have those weapons that the Armory Airmen were able to develop more live-fire courses earlier this year for the Air Advisor and Advanced Contingency Skills Training Courses.

"Those courses now include live-fire with an M-16 or M-4, M-9 and the AK-47," Sergeant Glunt said. "Designing a course suitable for each course was not the only challenge, but getting the ammunition to support the courses was also a significant hurdle. In the time I have been here, the munitions account has grown from a mere 1.2 million rounds to 5.2 million and is expected to continue to increase due to the need of getting more Airmen trained."

Prior to the Global War on Terrorism, Sergeant Heraty said the only course of fire an Airman would learn from would be the Air Force Qualification Course using an M-16 or an M-9.

"Every Airman knows what's involved there -- you shoot at a paper target and get qualified every couple of years," Sergeant Heraty said. "That's it. Under some circumstances, security forces were the only personnel who got the opportunity to shoot any kind of advanced weapon's firing courses."

Now, at least for many students who come through the Expeditionary Center for training, they learn a number of advanced shooting tactics, techniques and procedures.

"Many of these courses now involve shooting on the move such as aggressing to and regressing from your paper target, shooting multiple targets side-to-side, or transitioning to your side arm should your primary weapons falter," Sergeant Heraty said. "Students also learn about shooting at full distances - sometimes as far as out as 300 meters."

With ACST, for example, Sergeant Glunt said they are allowing "the masses" to fire on the Army's full distance pop-up course. "We tailored an Army qualification course to best suit our students needs," he said.

Sergeants Glunt and Heraty have a combined 38 years worth of experience in Air Force combat arms training between them. They both agree their job isn't just about maintaining the large inventory of foreign and U.S. weapons - it's about training, which could save an Airman's life.

"We are often looked at as just another security forces armory, but when it comes down to it, we're an armory, mobility weapons vault and a combat arms section managing a weapons account of more than 1560 weapons and 5.2 millions rounds of ammunition," Sergeant Glunt said. "We do all of that with a staff of four Airmen where at a regular base this would be done by 10 to 12 Airmen. We're busy, but we are also dedicated to helping Airmen succeed on the battlefield through our support for training."

Sergeant Heraty added, "Many people don't realize we were behind the development of the Center's advanced courses of firing which is benefitting deploying Airmen across the board. Our work has hopefully helped some deployed Airman who's being attacked know what an enemy's gun sounds like, and in turn, know how to take his own weapon and defend himself. If he's learned that, then we've done our job."