Soldier Combat Skills

Army recruits fire first weapons as Soldiers

Bullets were flying when basic trainees learned how to fire the Mark-19 grenade launcher and the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun Friday at Patton Range.

The goal of the training was to familiarize Soldiers with the weapons and to teach them the fundamentals of operating them, said SGT Randy Woolford, primary instructor for the M-2.

“As Infantry Soldiers, this is their bread and butter,” Woolford said. “All of them will be behind (the M-2) at some point, and some of them will definitely have to defend their lives with this weapon. It’s one of their key tools.”

The Soldiers, in A Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, were in their first week of one station unit training. Friday’s training was the first time they had fired weapons as Soldiers.

“The idea is to shock them, so when you hand them (another weapon), they’re not afraid,” Woolford said. “This is the loudest weapon they’re going to fire, the most rounds they’re going to fire and the quickest they’re going to fire, so by the time they walk away, there’s no other weapon they’ll fire in basic training that’s going to intimidate them. It’s going to build confidence.”

For PV2 Bryan Wilcox, 20, from Omaha, Neb., it was the first time he had ever fired a weapon.

“I was a little nervous,” he said. “I wanted to shoot the M-4 before getting into stuff like this, but it was a piece of cake.”

Many of the Soldiers said they were impressed by the weapons’ power.

“It was amazing, like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” said PV2 Ray Valenvuela, 20, from Highland, Calif. “I had fired weapons before, but never anything like that. The noise and the power were crazy. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle it, but now I feel like I’m on cloud nine. It’s just amazing to know they trust us with that kind of stuff.”

For PFC William Campbell, 19, from Wichita, Kan., the most difficult part of the training was overcoming nerves.

“I was nervous, but you get comfortable with it after a few minutes, and you’re not scared anymore,” he said. “It will help us get used to firing other weapons. If you fire the big ones first, the smaller ones won’t seem so powerful and you’ll be able to shoot them without being worried or shaken.”

Valenvuela said the training helped him take a longer view of the demands of basic training.

“I’m learning that a lot of the stuff they do is to make you feel confident, and that there’s a reason for it,” he said. “I feel more confident now.”

Wilcox said the training bolstered his decision to join the Army.

“I’ve always wanted to join,” he said. “It took me 10 years and now I’m finally doing it. It all helps you build confidence. It’s amazing.”

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