CATM Instructors train students to ‘stay on target’

  • Published
  • By by Staff Sgt. Kelly Ogden
  • 16th SOW Public Affairs
Some individuals find weapons requalification training to be extremely stressful. Weapons tend to be a little intimidating when you’re unfamiliar with how they operate. While the pressure to qualify intensifies, the day to “mount-up” finally comes and it’s over in the blink of an eye. Far away on the other side of the spectrum, some ferocious warriors look at this experience as their time to kick some tail, military-arms style. Thank goodness for the Hurlburt Field combat arms training and maintenance instructors, who are here to guide students along in their quest to becoming talented marksmen.

CATM provides ground weapons training and inspections for all Air Force personnel. Hurlburt Field employs 12 skilled instructors and trains 800-1,000 students monthly. Next to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Hurlburt has the largest training load in the entire Air Force.

“We are here to ensure survivability in combat,” said Staff Sgt. David Fairchild, 16th Security Forces Squadron CATM instructor. “When you come to the range, know that we’re going to train you to be part of the most feared armed forces in the world.”

CATM instructors train Airmen on a variety of weapons to include pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, grenade launchers and rifles.

“The best part of instructing is seeing a student’s shot group (zeroing in on a weapon) finally coming together,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Slevin, 16th SFS CATM instructor. “The proverbial light bulb finally turns on and they begin to understand the fundamentals of shooting. It’s rewarding when you see the results of the student’s weapons training and the students begin to acknowledge all of the hard work and effort that the instructors put into each class.”

“Knowing that I might have saved someone’s life by providing the training they needed to perform in combat is the best part of my job,” said Sergeant Fairchild. “It’s very rewarding to help students to achieve something they didn’t believe was possible. When someone comes in the range and thinks that they might fail and I help them score expert, it makes me proud to be in the Air Force.”
Though the job is gratifying to both instructors, it still comes with a few challenges.

“The most challenging part of my job is making people understand what exactly to do,” said Sergeant Slevin. “Sometimes it’s difficult to get people to realize all the effort we put into ensuring Airmen become qualified on a tool of war that is essential to increase survivability in a hostile/war environment.”

Students can feel confident when they enter each CATM class. Each instructor attends a nine-week course at the Security Forces Academy at Lackland AFB specializing in professional firearms. All instructors are sub depot-level gunsmiths, which are gunsmiths who replace weapon parts and make mechanical adjustments, or certified firearm instructors.

“We will ensure the best possible training for each and every person who gets on the plane heading to war from Hurlburt,” said Sergeant Slevin. “Chances are that we will be right there serving proudly right beside you.”