Thursday and Friday:
Thursday was M9 Pistol qualifications for the officers. We started out at 06:30 am, lining up to get our weapons issued from the armory which is 1/2 mile away from our barracks. Half a mile is nothing until you are wearing all of your body armor with your elbow pads, knee pads, camelback full of water and your backpack which holds your MRE, gloves, ballistic glasses and any other snacks you might want to bring. After getting our weapons, we had to walk the half mile back to get on the buses to go to the range. No seems to know why the buses can’t just come pick us up at the armory, but who am I to say, being that I am just a lowly lieutenant.
After reaching the parking lot where the buses are supposed to pick us up and waiting for roughly 15 minutes, we get word that the buses were running off the wrong day’s schedule and would not be arriving for another 20 minutes. Immediately, about 40% of our group suddenly collapsed to the ground.
The M9 qualifications started with a 10 round practice shoot, then 50 rounds to shoot a various pop up targets that looked like the shape of a person cut off at the waist. We had drop and insert new magazines at certain points and shoot while walking up on the target as well. After the Daytime qualifications were done, we then had to shoot 7 rounds at 5 targets with the gas masks. You have to kneel down in place with your weapon. The announcer yells, “Gas, gas, gas!” over the intercom. You then have to stand up, remove your helmet, pull your gas mask out of the bag it’s stored in that is attached to your leg, pull it over your head (which is not easy with a big bun of hair on the back of your head), pick up your weapon and shoot. By the time I pulled the mask off, I pretty much felt like it was one of the most miserable days I have ever had. It was extremely hot and my body armor was feeling heavier than ever.
But, I was done with the hardest part. I was able to then go lie in the shade and eat my Heater Meal. Heater Meals are self-heating emergency meal kits that even you can order online if you would like to try them at http://www.heatermeals.com. They usually come with a canned juice, cookies, trail mix, apple sauce, raisins and a small container of pasta or rice with meat.
After waiting several hours for 140 people to finish shooting, we had to pack up and go to a different range for our Limited Visibility shoot once the sun set. This was the best part. We had to shoot in the Prone position (lying down on the ground) at a pop up target in very little light. We had 15 rounds total and hit the target every single shot! Only couple of us got a perfect score. It was also fun because every 4th round was a tracer round. These rounds have red tips and contain phosphorous which leaves the range looking like a scene from Star Wars with red-lighted streaks across the sky. One of my tracer rounds caught a bush on fire! Luckily it went out on its own.