(Photo by Matthew J. Wilson)
"It went really well," said Staff Sgt. David Hudson, training noncommissioned officer for the 1140th's Headquarters Company, based in Cape Girardeau. "We started zeroing on Friday at about 1:30 and had everybody zeroed by 5. It went pretty smoothly."
About 115 members of the Missouri National Guard spent most of the day on Aug. 7 qualifying with one of several types of weapon: 94 Soldiers qualified with the M-16 rifle; seven qualified on the M240 (also referred to as a 240-Bravo) machine gun; two qualified on the M-249 SAW (squad automatic weapon) light machine gun; two qualified on the 50-calibur gunner and 10 qualified on the M-9 pistol.
The Soldiers came from all across the 1140th, including Headquarters Company and the Forward Support Company (both in Cape Girardeau), the 1138th Engineer Company (Sappers) from Farmington, the 220th Engineer Company in Festus, the 1438th Engineer Multi-Role Bridge Company of Macon, the 880th Engineer Haul Team of Perryville and the 1140th's commanding 35th Engineer Brigade.
"We started firing at about 8:30 and we were done by 1500 (3 p.m)," Hudson said. "It went pretty smoothly."
Weapons qualification is very important to Soldiers to make sure their knowledge and use stay honed, Hudson said. At this particular qualification, Hudson said, there was plenty of ammunition and Soldiers who already had qualified had extra time to practice firing the weapons.
"It's good familiarization," Hudson said. "Plus, it's fun. Soldiers enjoy it more, instead of being in a closed-in environment. Two big things happen: Soldiers find individual companies and get to mingle. They get to meet the Soldiers from other companies from the battalion and get to put a name to a face. Also, they get to fire and that builds up their confidence. If we get deployed, that all helps."
Spc. Yarelis Soto of the 1140th's Headquarters Company hit 35 out of 40 targets during her M-16 qualification. Soto, a chemical weapons specialist, said that weapons qualification is one of the more enjoyable drills of the year. She understands that knowing how to fire -- and fire well -- is important to being a Soldier in the Missouri National Guard.
"It's knowledge that we need to know," she said. "We need to be familiar with the weapon and be proficient with it. It could mean the difference between life and death someday. It could be the difference between a successful mission and a failed mission."
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