We aim to please ... You aim, too, please!

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jay Mruk
  • 8th Security Forces Squadron
When posed with the question of what weapons safety means to you, what answer does your mind conjure up?

In the heat of the battle or during a base exercise, the importance of weapons safety, retention and employment becomes vitally important.

This is especially true to those who do not carry weapons as a part of their daily routine. Much like other aspects of base defense, weapons knowledge and employment are perishable skills.

The best advice I can give to anyone is to handle a weapon with all due regard to safety. First and foremost, any weapon should be treated as if it were loaded ... after all, it might be! Secondly, do not point your weapon at anything you cannot positively identify or do not intend to shoot.

Given the frequency of base exercises, a few other factors must be considered. When firing blanks, do not engage anyone at a distance closer than 20 feet, as injuries can occur from burning powder exiting the muzzle of the weapon. I have seen the outcome of such instances and it's not as attractive as you may think.

I know there is a consensus out there that as military members, we do not fire weapons often enough. This is a topic of much debate, but the Air Force has provided guidance to its personnel who may not be fortunate enough to tote a weapon every day. With regard to exercise weapons employment, Air Force Instruction 31-207, Arming and Use of Force by U.S. Air Force Personnel, para 2.12 states:  "Personnel participating in tactical exercises or force-on-force training using integrated laser-based weapons training devices or blank ammunition do not have to be qualified on the firearm they are armed with ... however, they must be familiar with all safety requirements, have a working knowledge of the weapon, and be able to distinguish between live and blank ammunition."

Blank ammunition can be readily identified by a star-crimped tip on the end of the cartridge, and does not contain a projectile. Furthermore, all blank ammunition will be contained in a white magazine, designating them as blanks.

As we move headlong into another operational readiness exercise and operational readiness inspection, understand that there will be an added focus on weapons knowledge and employment. As with anything else, preparation is key! While it is not practical to conduct live-fire qualification for every member of the Wolf Pack, there are still numerous training aids that can keep your weapons knowledge at a suitable level. The Advanced Distributed Learning Service, or ADLS, on the Air Force Portal, offers computer-based training for the M16 and M4 rifles, as well as the M9 pistol. It is also highly encouraged that units who have weapons assigned to them have members perform internal weapons familiarization. Do not wait until your next scheduled firing appointment to realize your need for weapons knowledge or familiarization. Your Air Force Pamphlet 10-100, Airman's Manual, also contains a wide variety of weapons information to include fundamentals, nomenclature, and user maintenance on pages 98-122.

The last, and potentially most significant, thing I will mention is weapons retention and accountability. If you are assigned a weapon, you are responsible for it. Do not leave it unattended or hand it off to someone else. Doing so could result in the loss or theft of the weapon, which would be a bad day for the individual to whom the weapon was issued.

The responsibility for maintaining readiness, to include weapons knowledge and employment, lies with each individual in the Wolf Pack. Doing so will aid the Wolf Pack in accomplishing its mission of defending the base, accepting follow-on forces, and taking the fight north!