MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
A convoy is ambushed downrange.
The gunner attempts to return fire, but mid-burst, it jams. Thinking back to the class he took to qualify on the weapon, he quickly performs the immediate actions needed to continue firing the weapon and protect the convoy.
This is the expertise the Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM) instructors assigned to the 820th Combat Operations Squadron are responsible for instilling in every Airman in the 820th Base Defense Group.
“Every person that deploys has to come through us to get qualified on their weapons,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Labuda, 824th Base Defense Squadron NCO in charge of CATM. “But within the 820th BDG, the two of us [instructors] assigned to each squadron are the go-to people for those Airmen.
“So, if there are last minute things they need to qualify on, they don’t have to fit into the base’s overall schedule,” added Labuda. “We train them, deploy with them, run the armory while downrange and perform maintenance on all of the weapons.”
The 820th BDG is comprised of the 822d, 823d and 824th Base Defense Squadrons, whose mission is to provide high-risk force protection and integrated base defense for expeditionary air forces.
Each squadron rotates through deployments, Global Readiness Force taskings and home station training, but every Airman in each squadron must be qualified on every weapon system they use because of their adaptive basing mission.
The 820th defenders are developing the tactics, technologies and leaders they need to ensure success in future adaptive basing missions. Additional weapons qualifications allows them to meet the needs of combatant commanders by providing the ability to position airpower in close proximity to adversaries and improve the air component's ability to rapidly respond to a crisis.
“Most security forces squadrons don’t use the MK19 or the M2 machine gun because their capabilities are not the same [as the 820th],” said Labuda. “We’re meant to be used for bare base operations where we have to set-up our own security or outside the wire missions where we have to have heavy weapons for defense.”
Those heavy weapons include the M2 machine gun, Mark 19 40mm grenade machine gun, M240B machine gun, M249 light machine gun, M136E1 AT4-CS confined space light anti-armor weapon, and M18 Claymore mine.
While providing their own security in a deployed environment, the squadron could be ambushed by adversaries, and heavy weapons like the AT4-CS and Mark 19 help neutralize threats firing from a distance. The M18 Claymore mine could be used to ambush threats while machine guns could be used in firefights with threats in close proximity.
“We have to make sure they know what to do if they pull the trigger and it doesn’t fire,” said Labuda. “Knowing what to do in that situation could save their lives.”
In order for the Airmen to remember what to do, the instructors have to stress the importance of the information.
“They only see us when they qualify on each of their weapons which is one time per year,” added Staff Sgt. Nicholas Diamond, 820th COS CATM instructor. “Being able to make an impact and impart knowledge that can save their lives in the short time that you have with them is what it’s all about.”
One Airman the training has had a significant impact on is Airman 1st Class Alex Carver, 824th BDS fireteam member.
“This is my second time qualifying on these weapons, and the first time I was new and nervous and didn’t really know what to expect,” said Carver. “This time I feel more fluent with the weapon, my accuracy has improved and I have more knowledge about each of these weapon systems.
“I was most excited to fire the .50 caliber because it gives you an adrenaline rush when you shoot it, also when we deploy and there’s a gunner in the Humvee that’s the weapon we’d be using to preserve the lives of those inside,” Carver added.