Misawa Combat Arms Instructors work to maintain proficiency
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- 'CONTACT FRONT'- the sound of metal to metal clanking echoes as the bolt slams forward and the magazine is put into the rifle. The instructor yells 'FIRE' and one last sound of the charging handle ricocheting back into place dissipates before a loud BANG rings throughout everyone's ears.
In the Air Force, there exists a special cadre of security forces Airmen: combat arms training and maintenance instructors. These highly qualified instructors teach Airmen a multitude of weapon knowledge and capabilities through a rigorous CATM course.
"The mission of combat arms is to train Airmen in peacetime to prepare for war," said Staff Sgt. Chelsea Moschell, 35th Security Forces Squadron assistant NCO in charge of combat arms. "We ensure all Air Force personnel who have to carry a weapon during their day-to-day mission know how to operate, be proficient and be safe with the rifle in case they need to operate it."
CATM at Misawa AB has a unique mission because it not only trains U.S. Air Force personnel, but also Japanese National Civilian Guard members.
"The mission is different because we train our bilateral counterparts, i.e., civilian guards, on the M-9 pistol and M-4 rifle like our security forces personnel," said Moschell. "We have to use a translator, so the students are able to understand what we're saying to them."
CATM classes for USAF personnel take roughly a day, but due to the language barrier the civilian guard CATM class takes two. Day one consists of a classroom setting where instruction is given to familiarize everyone with the M-4 rifle and to learn proper weapon safety. Day two is dedicated to hands-on training where students fire the weapon to determine if they meet qualification standards.
"Working with a translator is time consuming, hence our two day course, but instructors wouldn't have it any other way due to safety concerns," said Moschell. "Overall, it's a rewarding experience because even though there is a language barrier, we're still able to make each other laugh, have a good time, yet still remember weapon safety is always first."
Due to manning constraints, members who fall under "Group A," e.g., security forces members, AF Office of Special Investigation agents, security forces augmentees, etc., are able to step in and be a range safety official when needed.
"I had to take a five-day course to become qualified as a RSO," said Senior Airman Lauren Moschell, 35th SFS CATM range safety official and acting NCOIC of physical security. "As the RSO I ensure everyone on the firing line is practices proper safety procedures such as weapons level and down-range, no horseplay and follows the tower official's instructions."
When given the opportunity to be an RSO for a day or two, SrA Moschell doesn't hesitate, knowing she gets to play a key role in qualifying her counterparts.
"Getting the opportunity to work with the CG's and Japanese security guards is awesome," said SrA Moschell. "Being able to teach them our fundamentals and broaden that relationship with our partners is key in knowing we all are qualified the same."
From training Airmen to bilateral partners, SSgt Moschell's passion for teaching always remains the same.
"I love teaching," said SSgt Moschell. "Especially when students have that "ah-hah" moment and the light bulb finally turns on. This job is very rewarding, but I want my students to remember how to accurately use their weapon without even having to think, so when duty calls to protect themselves, their wingman, and base personnel, it's instilled in them as muscle memory."