Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy Kern, 153rd Security Forces Squadron, Wyoming Air National Guard, Cheyenne, Wyoming, fires the M2 .50-caliber machine gun on Fort Leonard Wood Jan. 9. Kern was one of six Airmen to attend the first Air Force-led Advanced Heavy Weapons course held here. Photo by Brian Hill
A handful of Airmen participated in the first Air Force-led Advanced Heavy Weapons course on Fort Leonard Wood Jan. 6 through 10. The week-long course provided security forces Airmen with classroom and live-fire familiarization on the M2 .50-caliber machine gun.
It’s one of two advanced heavy weapons courses now offered here by and for the Air Force. The other covers the Mk 19 grenade launcher. Fort Leonard Wood, along with Fort Bliss, Texas, are both being used by the Air Force for this training, which was previously taught only at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
“It was decided to move the courses here to Fort Leonard Wood to allow us freedom of movement so to speak,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Matthew Treadwell, 343rd Training Squadron Operating Location Bravo flight chief. “We’re allowed to do night fire and convoy operations with live fire, which was something we couldn’t do down at Lackland. It’s real-world training, that’s what these Airmen are getting.”
According to Treadwell, most of the 10 to 20 Airmen attending each course are qualifying with weapons they’ll need at their next assignments, either in South Korea — which requires an M2 certification — or guarding an Air Force missile field.
He said the Airmen attending the courses here are the first to train on the M2 with live night fire, providing an opportunity to use night-vision devices.
“Out here, we’ve got forever and a day going out that direction,” Treadwell said, while pointing at the open land southwest of Range 24. “These Airmen are going to get some awesome trigger time.”
The courses are taught by 12 Air Force security forces noncommissioned officers stationed here, and are formatted with three classroom days and one day and evening on the range where each student fires more than 800 live rounds.
“It’s not a traditional classroom, so to speak,” Treadwell said. “You’re in a classroom setting, but you’re also outside doing crew drills, range cards and mounting drills.”
For Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Dixon, this was the first experience he’s had with the M2. He said the course will help him in his role as noncommissioned officer in charge of combat arms for the 111th Attack Wing at Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania.
“It’s a great class — very well organized,” he said. “It’s good to come out here and learn a new weapons system. I’m going to go back to my base to train our Airmen so I’m glad they’re giving us a lot of good information. I think they’ve got it set up pretty well. We’ll be sending other instructors here.”
Treadwell said this is just the first iteration of the heavy weapons training, and that as the needs of the Air Force evolve, so will the courses they offer on Fort Leonard Wood.
“The quality of training they’re getting (here) is leaps and bounds above what they were allowed to get (at Lackland),” he said.