The USAF And The Way Of The Rifle

Friday, December 30th, 2011

The air force does have ground combat troops — 23,000 of them, assigned to security force duty — and was the first branch to issue the iconic M-16 assault rifle.

Now the air force is changing its rifle training:

Based on the combat experience of many airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan, air force rifle training now includes wearing combat equipment (protective vest and helmet) while firing. In addition, airmen are trained to fire from more positions (that are typical of actual combat) as well as at many different distances (especially short range). Air force security troops are also receiving more night firing training.

Airmen also fire twice as many rounds (196 versus 100) during the new rifle qualification course that is taken every two years. The ten hours of training and shooting includes material on tactics, target identification, marksmanship while under fire, how to clear jams and other weapons failures. About 70 percent of airmen pass the new rifle training course on the first try.

All this increased emphasis on rifle training evolved over the last decade as more airmen found themselves involved in ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Initially, many were unprepared. For decades, air force basic training only involves a week of field training, including learning the basics of firing a rifle. After that, most airmen fired those rifles, briefly, once every two years. This was shown to be inadequate for airmen being sent to wartime Iraq and Afghanistan. So the air force created a special four week combat course for airmen headed to a combat zone. The course is taught by many airmen who already have combat experience in Iraq.

They’re also receiving some training in hand-to-hand combat, or combatives:

The Air Force Combatives program is a 20 hour version of the 40 hour U.S. Army Combatives Program.

As a point of reference, earning a blue-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu — the lowest belt above white in the art that’s the basis for the current combatives curriculum — requires roughly 200 hours of training and practice.

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