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A day at the range

Senior Airman Joseph C. Paretti, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, attaches a target in preparation for 108th Airmen qualifying on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Senior Airman Joseph C. Paretti, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, attaches a target in preparation for 108th Airmen qualifying on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, pick up boxes of 5.56mm ammunition in preparation for qualifying on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, pick up boxes of 5.56mm ammunition in preparation for qualifying on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, prepare to qualify on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Airmen from the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, prepare to qualify on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Senior Airman Raymond J. Buckno, left,  Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, helps Airman 1st Class Bryant A. Toro, both with the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, adjust the M68 red dot sight on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Senior Airman Raymond J. Buckno, left, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, helps Airman 1st Class Bryant A. Toro, both with the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, adjust the M68 red dot sight on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Senior Airman Raymond J. Buckno, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, examines target groupings during M4 Carbine qualification at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Senior Airman Raymond J. Buckno, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, examines target groupings during M4 Carbine qualification at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Waldron, 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, qualifies on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Brian Waldron, 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, qualifies on the M4 Carbine at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 8, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst --      There was snow on the ground - again.

     The 108th Wing's Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructors took it in stride, the most important thing on that March day was to get the 15 Airmen qualified on the M4 carbine.

     The CATM instructors are responsible for ensuring that the Wing's 1,000 plus Airmen are trained on everything from the M16A2 service rifle, the M4 carbine rifle to the 9mm pistol.

     This two-day training was divided between a day in the classroom and a day at the range. In the classroom, the Airmen learned about weapon safety, nomenclature - what's what on the weapon, zeroing the weapon - this applies to the M16A2 and the M4, disassembling and cleaning the weapon, dry firing the weapon in various positions and extreme operating conditions. In addition, a new course of fire has been added to the curriculum.

     "Today, they take what they learned yesterday and put it into practical practice," said Tech. Sgt. Maurice M. Nelson, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, 108th Wing Armory.

     Making this training requirement somewhat easier the Airmen are divided into two groups. Airmen in the alpha group - security forces for example - have to train annually. The bravo group, maintenance as an example, are trained every two years. The common training requirement for both groups is, if an Airman is deploying, then they need to requalify on the range 90 days before they deploy.

     For this training, the Airmen arrived with their body armor and their M50 Joint Service General Purpose gas masks. In addition, some brought tarps so when they were in the prone firing position, they were least somewhat insulated from the snow. Other Airmen relied on their All Purpose Environmental Clothing System parkas.

     The Airmen received their ammunition, moved up to the firing line and told to load magazines with predetermined amounts of ammunition.

     After everyone zeroed their weapons and went through the traditional firing positions, they learned a new course of fire.

     It is preparation for close combat and it's what the Air Force and the rest of the United States military has learned from the last two conflicts.

     "It's short range combat where an Airman can react to insurgents at close quarters," said Nelson. "It is completely different from marksmanship."

     Instead of firing from the shoulder, Airmen wearing body armor place the M4 carbine stock closer toward the center of their chest. Because the M4 has a collapsing stock, Airmen with shorter arms found it easier to fire than the longer M16A2 rifle.

     "This is a new course of fire," said Nelson. "It is based on lessons learned from Operations' Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom."

     And that learning is something no one will take in stride.