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To qualify or not to qualify: Marines, Sailors ‘take aim’ on pistol range

By Verda L. Parker | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | May 16, 2016

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Some active-duty service members travel to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany from near and far with a three-fold focus in mind -- testing their marksmanship skills, satisfying their Corps requirements, while achieving qualifying scores on the pistol range.

Both Marines and Sailors sign up to attend the week-long qualification course of fire in the installation’s Combat Pistol Program, which trains and reinforces various techniques through classroom as well as practical instruction.

Master Sgt. Roberto Nolasco, operations and training chief, Military Operations and Training Branch, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, discussed some of the details of the pistol range and some of the requirements for active-duty service members who report to the range to qualify.

“This week we are conducting our Combat Pistol Program course of fire qualifications for the Marines,” Nolasco said. “One thing that’s unique about this range that we’re doing this week is we have a couple of Marines coming out from different areas (around) Georgia, including two Navy Sailors aboard the (Naval Branch Clinic-Albany) here, who are also firing.”

According to Nolasco, Marine Corps police officers and active-duty service members from as far north as Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Marietta, Georgia, and as far south as Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Florida, have come to MCLB Albany to meet their pistol qualification requirement.

 “We start our classes on the Combat Pistol Program, with an introduction (of) the first and second relay of Marines,” he explained. “The initial training is classroom, followed by Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Training simulator, where they practice firing with the pistol -- kind of like a video game.

“What we’ve done with our ISMT is to split it into two sessions,” Nolasco clarified. “We’ve got one session in the classroom where they receive the verbal and formal instruction. Once (that) is done, we move to the other side of the room, which is the ISMT; (there) they do their practical application on the ISMT (simulator) trainer.”

The classroom and ISMT training is done on day one; the remainder of the week Marines and Sailors engage in a three-day course of fire training and will be scored on day five, after the actual qualification course of fire.

Giving an overview of the entire course of fire training, Nolasco equated the course to be “pretty much like a crawl, walk, run method” of instruction. He described the CPP introduction; the five blocks of fire as representing progressive steps; the roles of the combat marksmanship coaches and combat marksmanship trainers, right up to the final day’s qualification course of fire.

Coaches work with Marines, Sailors and military law enforcement officers in helping them become more familiarized with the pistol; with drawing it in and out of their holsters; presenting it to the target and engaging the target.

Another phase of the training focuses on failure to stop drills, controlled pairs and reloads. The final two blocks introduce the groups to the course of fire process, by which each can expect to be scored for actual qualification on day five of the CPP training.

Nolasco, who also serves as the range safety officer, said although Marines are only required to qualify once per year, the pistol range schedules are posted October 1, for the entire fiscal year, with CPP dates which cover roughly a nine-month, week-long training period.

Combat Pistol Program courses are filled by pre-assigned quotas for the various units, according to Nolasco. Service members requesting to complete their annual qualification requirement are urged to contact their respective commands for scheduled dates for the training.
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