CATM puts shots on target

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jake Carter
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Lying down in the Nevada desert on a blistering summer afternoon, palms sweaty and adrenaline running throughout the body, you hear "contact front!" Breathing heavily, a slow release of air drains from the lungs and you pull on a sliver of brass, ejecting a bullet on a one-way trip to its destination.

On this day, 28 Airmen from Nellis and Creech Air Force bases participated in an M4 rifle qualification course in preparation for either a deployment, permanent change of station move, or part of yearly training.

For Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, this is an everyday routine in which they must be able to train Airmen properly to ensure mission success as they move on to future endeavors.

Staff Sgt. Justin Jones, 99th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, has been a CATM instructor for the past year-and-a-half where he provides weapons training to Nellis and Creech AFB Airmen.

"We conduct weapons training for all sorts of weapons which include the M4 and M9 for people deploying and permanent change of stations," Jones said. "For other squadrons that need M240, M249 or M203, we will qualify Airmen for that type of training for deployment purposes only."

Even though all Airmen in the Air Force must go through CATM training to graduate from Air Force Basic Military Training, Jones said the 99th SFS CATM training curriculum is designed in a way that even someone who has never handled a weapon before in their life can become qualified after attending their course.

"For someone who has never been able to handle a weapon before, we are able to teach them in a classroom setting to break down their weapon and put it back together, and apply all the fundamentals to go out to the range and be able to fire effectively and qualify," Jones said. "But it's much more then qualifying. It's being able to go down range where if they have been in the class that if they come into a situation, where they need to utilize that weapon, that there's no hesitation."

At the end of every year, 99th SFS combat arms instructors usually have provided training to over 15,000 individuals, making them one of the busiest CATM sections in Air Combat Command.

"In the entire Air Force, the biggest base in the Air Force for CATM training is obviously going to be Lackland AFB, because of the basic training fire but we are easily in the top ten when it comes to firing the most," said Staff Sgt. Zachary Barkhymer, 99th SFS combat arms instructor.

While most of their classes are taught and catered to the deploying and PCSing Airmen, CATM also provides training to their fellow squadron members as well as other squadrons around the base.

"CATM is required when Airmen deploy, are PCS'd within a 90-day window, or some units like (the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron) have to fire for duty, so they fire on a yearly basis and then Security Forces have to always fire where they will do the M4 and M9 training and then live-sustainment training which can include the shoot-move-communicate course," said Jones.

At the end of the day, Airmen should feel confident when they go to qualify for their assignment or deployment because the 99th SFS CATM personnel know every inch of every weapons system.

"When we go through training, we have to know the ins and outs of the entire weapon," Jones said. "If you give us a bare-bone weapon, we can put it together with all of the parts no problem."