Friday, April 14, 2006

I can shoot! Er, no, I can't.

As you can see by the time of this posting (after 9pm) it's been a long day. But it was one of those long days in which a lot got done. I woke up this morning to a pleasant surprise: no PT! (Hey, that may not be pleasant to everyone, but I personally dislike mandatory pain!) Instead, we got an early start to head out to the range for our weapons qualifications. The morning started out exceedingly well. I was on the first group on the M9 (9mm Beretta) qualification, and got a perfect score. If I didn't already have my Pistol Expert medal, I would have earned it. I was quite pleased with myself, and maybe a little bit overconfident that my marksmanship skills would carry over to the M16. The next stop after the 9mm was to "group and zero" the M16. Basically when you get a brand new M16 fresh out of the box, it is set to a "factory zero". But that doesn't necessarily match where it will shoot when you line it up. The first step is to "group", which is shooting 6 consecutive shots inside a 4cm circle (at 25 meters). I was reasonably consistent, but kept missing one of the three shots in each group, in alternating groups, so it took me a few tries to get the 6 consecutive. After that, adjustments were made to my sights and voila... aim the same place and I was now hitting the center of the target. Pretty nifty. Finally, with a zeroed M16, I moved on to the qualification range. This is an appropriate point to mention that it was hot today. And humid. For those familiar with the military's heat index conditions, we were up to Condition 4 (the scale goes from 1 to 5). On one hand, it's good training for Iraq (where it's essentially Condition 5 most of the year) but on the other hand, it makes it pretty difficult to get comfortable to shoot with sweat dripping down your brow. Anyway, of my last 12 shots zeroing my M16 (at a target simulating 300 meters, the max range for qualification) I hit 11 of 12, so I was very confident that I would do well. But that confidence melted in the South Carolina heat as I tried to shoot the qualification range (with timed pop-up targets at various ranges that come up randomly) and came up with only 21 of 40. 23 is the minimum for qualification. Blah! That means I have to go back tomorrow and try it again. And again, if necessary... everyone WILL qualify. Of course, I'm not complaining. It's actually fun shooting. So I won't get my rifle expert medal. No matter! I still get to blow a few more holes in a few more targets! (And more good news: since it's another early range day, no PT! I can be a slacker! Although, honestly, I think with all the moving around I've had to do with armor and weapons and full canteens of water, I've certainly gotten a workout.) Qualification is actually the ticket to liberty this weekend. We've successfully done 6 days of activities in 5 days, and as soon as we're back tomorrow, as long as we qualify, we'll be allowed to head out for the weekend (for those who want to, but only within 100 miles). Given that all my friends and family are a bit further away than that, I'll probably take advantage of the time to organize my equipment, do laundry, and catch up on all the email that I haven't read this week. Off to clean up and hit the hay so I can be well rested for tomorrow's shoot: hopefully earlier in the morning when it's not so hot!

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