JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J., Aug. 4, 2010 – Soldiers from three Army Reserve bands traded woodwinds for weapons during Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction (PMI) here today.
The instruction was part of the 94th, 198th and 319th Army Bands’ five-day annual training and allowed participants to focus on critical soldier skills such as weapon safety, weapon maintenance and proper firing technique.
“We use PowerPoint and hands-on training to give a soldier – who maybe has no experience whatsoever with that weapon system – the ability to break down the weapon, clean it, make sure it’s functioning properly once they put it back together, and have the (sense of) dependability in that weapon system,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Casey Schwab, PMI instructor with the 2/315th Training Support Battalion.
PMI represents Phase I of the Army’s Basic Rifle Marksmanship program. While many soldiers in combat-oriented units have the chance to train with their weapons on a regular basis, Army bands are often tasked to employ their special musical talents at parades, homecomings and other special events.
“We spent two weeks in Fort Lewis,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Olear, 198th Army Band commander, of a recent mission. “Primarily, it was a musical mission because of the high optempo of incoming troops; we were constantly on call for return performances, playing for families.”
“We are always busy with commitments and don’t get a whole lot of time for this type of training,” added 1st Sgt. Emanuel Johnson, 319th Army Band first sergeant.
During the next several days of annual training, these soldiers are scheduled to test what they’ve learned in PMI by firing simulated rounds in the computer-controlled Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) 2000, and live rounds at the zero and qualification ranges here.
Every soldier in the Army Reserve has an annual requirement to qualify with his or her assigned weapon, regardless of what type of unit in which he or she serves – including Army bands.
While these soldiers are required to be able to qualify with their weapons, they aren’t expected to perform like a seasoned infantry platoon. The PMI team takes a realistic approach to training by making adjustments to their classes on a unit-by-unit basis.
“Our instructors tailor the training to the group that we are training,” explained Schwab. “If there’s a person who really hasn’t had much hands-on experience, we bring it down to a point where it’s like a Basic Training Soldier and teach them every aspect of the weapon that we can possibly teach them in a four-hour block of instruction.”
“If we have an individual who’s an expert with the weapon, we tell them it is a refresher for them, to pay attention, and if they have any add-ons to feel free to go ahead and add to the class,” he added.
Band members seemed grateful to not only have the chance to train in the basic soldier skills of marksmanship, but to have qualified and experienced instructors on hand to administer that training.
“We’ve got experts in weapons training giving us training today rather than training each other,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Charles Emery, 94th Army Band commander. “Training each other is valuable and useful, but it’s good to have subject matter experts to train our soldiers as well.”