Steady body position, controlled breathing and trigger pull are all part of the fundamentals drill sergeants at Fort Leonard Wood teach during rifle marksmanship at Basic Combat Training.
Marksmanship isn’t just about putting rounds down range, according to Staff Sgt. Matthew Hale, drill sergeant for Company D, 795th Military Police Battalion. It all begins when they are issued their rifle.
“When they first get here, it starts with weapons familiarization,” Hale said. “It’s about getting them used to carrying the rifle all the time.”
From there, Hale said it all builds up to the day they qualify with the M4.
Soldiers learn how to break down, clean, reassemble, conduct functions checks and learn immediate and remedial actions for malfunctions as a precursor to stepping into the Engagement Skills Trainer to fire their first digital rounds.
The focus in the EST is to zero-in on the fundamentals drill sergeants have been teaching and to see if the Soldiers can get their shots grouped, Hale said.
After the EST, Soldiers are moved out to a live-fire range to repeat the process from the EST, to zero their issued rifles.
The first steps to rifle qualification happen on Range 11, where Sgt. 1st Class Eric Hornyak, range noncommissioned officer in charge, and his team use a digital, instant-feedback system to help Soldiers confirm the zeroes and ensure grouping.
“The Location of Miss and Hit system is designed to track rounds from when it leaves the weapon until it impacts the target,” Hornyak said. “It gives the drill sergeant the ability to see where the Soldiers are hitting in relation to where they are aiming.”
The LOMAH range provides instant feedback to help the instructors know where the Soldiers need more work, Hornyak said.
The instant feedback provided by the LOMAH range provided Pfc. Jessica Brown, Co. D, 795th MP Bn., the opportunity to check her fundamentals and hone her marksmanship skills. Brown said this was her first time shooting a rifle, and thought the fundamentals the drill sergeants taught her were spot on.
For a first-time shooter, Hale said the focus must be on fundamentals.
“They need to feel confident in their abilities to shoot,” Hale said. “We instill the fundamentals and we stay strict on those. That way, some of those Soldiers who have never shot before can implement those techniques and be proficient.”
Following the LOMAH range, Soldiers move through another three live-fire ranges and one EST session before qualifying with their rifles.
Qualification is at unknown distances of 50 to 300 meters where Soldiers must demonstrate the ability to recognize a target and engage. To qualify as a marksman, Soldiers must hit 23 out of 40. To earn sharpshooter, the Soldier must hit 32 out of 40, and 36 out of 40 is expert.