By Wendy Brown, Fort Bliss Garrison Public Affairs:
(El Paso, Texas, Jan. 25, 2018)
DOÑA ANA RANGE, N.M. – As the next round of Soldiers prepared to qualify on the M9 pistol at Range 54 here Jan. 5, the first 10 seconds of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” rang out through the range’s loud speakers.
It was a short, light moment in a session aimed at preparing Soldiers for potentially deadly, serious situations.
Capt. Harold Shorter, commander, Troop D, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, said the M9 is the tank-mounted unit’s personal protection weapon, so it’s important for Soldiers to prove their proficiency at least once a year.
“Anytime we get off our platform or if the enemy gets on the platform, that’s for us to say, ‘I can’t shoot the big gun at you, so this is for me to personally protect myself and my crew,’” Shorter said. “So that’s why they have to be qualified on the M9.”
In addition, the unit’s noncommissioned officers are also assuming the mission of Fort Bliss gate guards, and the M9 is the weapon they will carry, Shorter said.
Shorter said the unit usually does an M9 qualification every six months or so to ensure that Soldiers new to the unit are qualified. They shoot in the standing, crouching, kneeling and prone positions.
Staff Sgt. John Riley, who helped Soldiers prepare to shoot, said the pistol is not the unit’s most widely used weapon, so it is important Soldiers take extra time to train on it and make sure they have the proper fundamentals before they come to the range.
Soldiers spent as much time as possible practicing beforehand, Riley said.
“We do dry fires and (Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction), just practicing and trying to go to the simulators when we have time,” Riley said. “All of our guys are shooting very well.”
As 30 Soldiers qualified on the M9 on one side of the range, another 14 pre-qualified on the M4 rifle for the upcoming Expert Infantryman Badge. The prestigious badge tests Soldiers on a range of tasks concerning weapons, medical knowledge and conducting patrols, as well as stretching their limits mentally and physically.
Shorter said time at the range helps the troop’s Soldiers as they perform their role of protector of the squadron’s scouts when they go out to gather information.
“Our job is to be what we call the fist,” Shorter said. “Whenever there’s a mess that’s too large for the scouts to handle, then that’s where we come into play. We can also be used to move to support other battalions as they move around the battlefield or to go out and do our own missions as a tank force.”
Staff Sgt. Charles Whipple, who helped train Soldiers on the M4, said training for the EIB helps improve soldiering skills even if a Soldier isn’t successful in earning the badge.
“It’s a bar to measure yourself,” Whipple said. “What tasks do I know, what tasks do I need to work on and can you put everything together at one time and do you have the confidence and the calm to do it under that pressure?”
Pvt. Dagan Fultz, meanwhile, who successfully qualified on the M9 for the second time since he joined the Army nine months ago, said all the squadron’s training helps him improve.
“Every training we do, we do for a purpose, and it makes us better and furthers us in our job,” Fultz said.