JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructors ensure Airmen are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to wield their weapons effectively. The 628th Security Forces Squadron CATM unit is responsible for providing support to local and regional military branches as well as local law enforcement.
CATM instructors here train a wide range of students with diverse professional backgrounds due to the joint nature of the base.
“It’s a very unique, non-typical mission,” said Lt. Col. Robert Clouse, 628th SFS commander. “We have a harbor patrol unit to protect the waterways, ships and seaports. CATM Airmen ensure law enforcement and security personnel are proficient. We can eliminate any threat we may face at Joint Base Charleston or downrange.”
The Basic Weapons Course is designed to familiarize students with their weapon and includes training focused on the intricacies of the firearm, from nomenclature to function checks, to assembly and cleaning.
“When Airmen go to hostile zones, they need skills to protect themselves, others and assets,” said Staff Sgt. Alexander Elder, 628th SFS CATM assistant NCO in charge. “Downrange, we can see there are insider threats. With everyone having basic knowledge of weapons and how to use them, we can help prevent loss of life and maintain these assets.”
CATM cadre are responsible for ensuring service members and civilians are capable of proficiently operating their weapon. However, CATM is more than firing; each class begins with ensuring every student can safely handle and properly clean their weapon.
“Safety is paramount because we can teach them all day what to do and not do, but at the end of the day, when they touch that weapon they are responsible for it,” said Senior Airman Dylan Ricketts, 628th SFS CATM instructor. “It’s important for Airmen to go through this training because if they’re going to have that weapon, they need to know not only what it does, but to be confident when using it.”
Instructors are capable of training on various firearms depending on their mission requirements, including the M-4 rifle, M-9 pistol, M-249 light machine gun and M-240B machine gun.
After attending the Basic Weapons Course, most of the students go on to carry a weapon every day for an extended period of time. For some, this is the first time ever carrying a weapon. CATM instructors say their training provides Airmen with the skills they need to confidently possess a weapon.
“At first I felt very nervous, but the instructors were very good,” said Airman 1st Class Jeannette Medina Vega, 437th Aerial Port Squadron passenger travel technician. “Senior Airman Ricketts helped me a lot and explained exactly what I needed to do, step-by-step.”
Teaching combat arms training is something Ricketts wanted to do since joining the security forces career field. After teaching his first few sessions, he noticed the training had a positive impact on him beyond weapons knowledge and proficiency.
CATM instructors acquire the skills needed by attending the 7-week Combat Arms Apprentice Course at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
“When I would attend training to do my annual qualification, I really admired how the instructors taught, their morale, work relationship and what their job entailed,” said Ricketts. “Once I found out I could be a part of that I jumped on it.”
In order to instill confidence and teach these skills, maneuvering the weapon has to come second nature to instructors. Being smart, safe and reliable with a weapon could mean the difference between life and death for their fellow service members. For that reason, Lt. Col. Robert Clouse, 628th SFS commander, is proud of the Airmen who represent his squadron by preparing Mobility Airmen and the joint warfighter to carry and potentially use their weapon.
“With few exceptions, anyone who dons the uniform should have a basic proficiency and be comfortable with their weapon, especially downrange,” said Clouse. “Without CATM instructors, we would not get that proficiency. They’ll do whatever it takes to support the warfighter and combatant commanders.”