Engagement Skills Trainer shelters across Fort Leonard Wood installed modernized M4 weapons at the end of February, just in time for Company D, 554th Engineer Battalion, to add weapons refamiliarization to their Advanced Individual Training Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills.
The upgraded weapons allow for a more realistic firing experience, EST Supervisor Jim Nutt said.
“Changes that were made include a higher air pressure, so when they pull the trigger they get a more realistic recoil feel of the actual M4,” he said. “Now the only thing they’re actually missing is the concussion from the actual shot.”
Nutt said the big, heavy cord attached to the old version is no more.
“Now it’s connected to the computer using Bluetooth or BlueFire,” Nutt said. He added that the weapons can be run completely wireless when using the air-pressured magazine option but with the number of initial entry Soldiers that come through for training, they will stick to keeping them connected to a thin air hose to save time.
He said the new weapons mean less maintenance and fewer breakdowns, which is especially important with the increased use by AIT units.
Capt. Eric Anderson, Company D, 554th Engr. Bn. Commander, said in the past, Soldiers would go through AIT without firing a weapon, causing them to lose the skills they had learned during basic training.
“The Engagement Skills Trainers are nothing new to them; they learned it in basic training, we’re just refamiliarizing them with it here,” Anderson said. “We’re just trying to instill the basics in the Soldiers and keep it going through AIT, whereas before, they were just focusing on specifically the academic skill.”
Anderson said the push to sharpen Soldiers’ marksmanship abilities throughout AIT is a U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command initiative.
“TRADOC’s new initiative is to get after what they call rigor. They’re trying to make training more rigorous, trying to instill the warrior spirit throughout AIT all the way until they graduate,” Anderson said. “We’re essentially making better Soldiers. This is the goal.”
Anderson said the additional training is currently being conducted after hours or on the weekend so it will not interfere with Soldiers’ military occupational specialty training.