Ft. Riley uses foreign weapons

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On a quiet field in the middle of Fort Riley, a red flag, raised high in the air and waving furiously, reached for the grey-blue sky. Soldiers know what this flag means: Get your protective gear on, because this this field is hot. If you aren’t careful, you could be killed. On Range 7, one of the many firing ranges at Fort Riley, Sergeant Benjamin Snow barked orders and safety tips at on-looking soldiers during a foreign weapons training session. But these soldiers aren’t average patriots; they are part of the Army’s Military Transition Teams – select groups of men and women chosen from across the country, stationed exclusively at Fort Riley, and trained to teach Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers. Out on the range, Class 41 of the MiTT followed Snow’s lead, shattering the silence of the field, firing round after round of foreign weapons. “We do this to so that when they get to Iraq and they have to use these weapons and teach their counterpart how to use these weapons, then they will know,” said Sergeant James Lewis, range safety officer. These counterparts are Iraqi and Afghani soldiers and police, said Lewis, whom the MiTT will train on tactic and weaponry so the armies will eventually be able to “secure themselves” and the United States will be able to reduce the amount of American soldiers overseas. Unlike the American weapons trainings in which soldiers must hit a specific number of targets 100-300 meters away to qualify for the day, Snow said the foreign weapons training is simply for the soldiers to get used to the guns. “The purpose of this training is for foreign weapons familiarization for the Transition Teams that will be deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan to work in conjunction with the Iraqi and Afghani army,” he said. “It’s not so much a hit count, like the American weapons training, for qualification. Their main objective when they’re out here is to become familiar with the safe operation of the [foreign] weapons system.” Lt. Colonel Kevin West said for the American weapons trainings, the MiTTs must hit 7 out of 14 targets on an M2 .50 caliber machine gun, and 8 out of 14 targets on an M-240 Bravo machine gun. Because the four foreign weapons the soldiers are trained on are so similar to their American models, the foreign weapons training calls for less practice. Snow, who said he was training for the second time, took soldiers step-by-step through how to lock and load foreign machine guns, rifles and snipers. He also said the weapons were simple to operate and some are almost identical to their American models. “For a lot of these people,” Lewis said, “this is their first time ever shooting, and it’ll probably be their last.” Lewis said he has occasionally come across weapon malfunctions while training, but said there haven’t been any serious safety problems on the range. When the red flag’s up, people know to be cautious. MiTTs train on a rigorous schedule, working from dawn until dusk everyday, typically for a month, before they are deployed to their designated destinations. The program, Snow said, has been at Fort Riley for just over a year.

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