SIG Sauer Academy

Air Force Shooters Get Schooled

SMOKY HILL AIR NATIONAL GUARD RANGE, Kan. — Teams of Airmen move in and out of cover while under fire. Less than 15 feet from the enemy, one of the Airman’s primary weapons jams. Without hesitation, in one fluid motion, he slings his rifle, draws his pistol and quickly eliminates the threat.


Airmen from various career fields within the 93d Air Ground Operations (AGOW) traveled to Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range, Kan., to participate in a course that made techniques like this second nature.

The gun course was held Aug. 26-31, which incorporated their specific duties as tactical air control party (TACP) members and security forces personnel and built on their gunfighting skills.


“The full spectrum operator course bridges the gap between the traditional combat arms instructor training (CATM) and what they’re going to face downrange facing off with enemy combatants,” said Master Sgt. Joe Aton, 93d AGOW joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) program superintendent. “Traditional CATM shooting is shooting at paper (from various positions) while this course will prepare guys for what they’re going to see in real combat.”

Fast transitions to their side arm, organizing their gear so it didn’t hinder their ability to aim or reload their weapons and practicing proper form when firing were all lessons hit hard during the first few days of the course.


A mix of veterans, guard and reserve members whom have varying levels of combat experience run the course, hoping to impart their knowledge to today’s warfighters.

“The mission is to save lives,” said Brian Hartman, chief instructor. “It’s all about the troops that are downrange … there’s rarely a week that goes by that we don’t receive communication from folks who are using material that we’ve given them and it’s helped them gain or maintain the edge in an encounter.


“That’s the greatest feeling in the world; there’s no better job satisfaction than that, but we want to share the wealth,” Hartman added. “It’s about getting that information pushed out there and getting everybody back home safe to see their kids grow up.”

Various air support operations squadrons chose one experienced and new JTAC to participate, while the 820th Base Defense Group chose a new defender and a fire team leader.


While the course primarily focused on gunfight techniques, it also incorporated exercises that challenged specific job skills. Airmen were challenged on their mindset of the feel and look of a “real-world” gunfight.

“One of the most challenging things we impart to people will be mindset,” said Hartman. “In a real environment a small mistake can magnify massively into a huge mistake which can have severe consequences to you, your teammate and can have a ripple effect on down the line.


“That shift in mindset to make everybody treat every single bullet as though it’s a gift,” Hartman added. “Every single minute; every second they step out onto the range should be treated as though they’re in the real environment and could have to use these skills tomorrow. If we knew we’d have to do it tomorrow it might change the way we approach training today.”

Throughout the course, Airmen moved tactically through dangerous crossings where they had to return fire and call in close air support, all while being held accountable for every mistake.


“I think the biggest challenge is breaking bad habits,” said 1st Lt. Andrew Janosick, 20th Air Support Operations Squadron joint terminal attack controller (JTAC). “We haven’t had a lot of dynamic weapons training so breaking out of our comfort zone, learning these dynamic movements and being comfortable behind the weapon (is great).

In addition to revamping the way they shoot during the course, Airmen were encouraged to take the techniques and knowledge back to their squadron and incorporate it.


“I’m hoping to take back as much information from this course (as I can),” said Tech. Sgt. James Estep, 822d Base Defense Squadron fire team leader. “(Especially) ways to think outside of the box when it comes to shooting and honing your skills. It’s really nice having a wide variety of career fields out here. You’re either learning new things from them or they’re learning from you so it shines a new light on things.”

Like any skill, if you don’t use it, you lose it; which is why Aton also hopes to incorporate this course into the current training AGOW Airmen receive.

“I think this is something that should become one of the foundations for our guys as far as gunfighting which is a basic skill everybody should have,” said Aton. “It’s also a perishable skill so it should be something we do annually.”

Story and photos by Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson, 23d Wing Public Affairs

33 Responses to “Air Force Shooters Get Schooled”

  1. b_rawrd says:

    1. desert scarf doo-rags
    2. frat boy multicam visors
    3. High ready rifle action shots

    *the cringe is real*

    • will sew4kit says:

      The Shemagh doo rag is a pers fav….

    • Ex11A says:

      If you are in the Air Force, and you actually get to shoot an M4, can you then just wear whatever you happen to have laying around on your head? I.e., helmet, ball cap, doo-rag, golf visor, etc.?

      • Darkhorse says:

        Ex11A- this is exactly why they are getting “schooled”. Maybe a course in appropriate battlefield attire is needed too.

    • TY says:

      This crew spent 5 days training combative skills to become more efficient in their craft and this is what you guys take away from it?

      • Darkhorse says:

        I guess some people view their craft very one dimensionally. It’s awesome that they got out there to better themselves. Story and photos from a public affairs office, would just think that they’d have the discipline to look as professional as they want us (the reader) to take them.

        • SSD says:

          It’s the Air Force. The PA folks don’t know any better. What you should be applauding is that the AF released a story depicting small arms training.

          • Alpha2 says:

            I was assigned to the 820th SFS from 04-08 and I received more weapons training than most airmen however not near the training that they seem to be receiving today, it is about time and it is long overdue. This is a definite step in the right direction inspite of some of the headwear choices.:)

          • b_rawrd says:

            More stories on F22 plz

        • TY says:

          The PFC cadre of instructors believe in a less is more approach. Most drills require the students to get fully kitted up, whereas some allow them to dress down in order to focus fully on the current course of instruction. This allows students to process material effectively.

          “Progressive F.O.R.C.E. Concepts, also known as PFC Training, is the primary instructional arm of the PFC Group of Companies. Our mission is a simple one: To Save Lives. The guiding principles on this journey are unrelenting self-assessment, an ever-evolving curriculum, and stress-proven solutions based on simpler alternatives. PFC Training has proven time and again that it can create better students faster than any other doctrine available.”

    • DewWhoop says:

      All necessary for those 4-month deployments

  2. rob371 says:

    Seems like a lot of dudes in the photos are running their PEQ-16s at the 3. Is that common for air force? Not throwing shade, just curious if it’s a “thing” for them.

  3. SSD says:

    “Egad! They aren’t wearing helmets! Those Soldiers going to die on the range from ricochets and exploding firearms!”

    “Oh wait, they’re in the Air Force.”

    “How dare those Airmen not dress like they are in the Army!”

    • Ex11A says:

      I’m not laughing at the lack of helmets, lots of Army units don’t wear helmets all the time at the range. I’m laughing at the selection of other than helmet headgear.

  4. Bobby Denard says:

    Same Chief Instructor Brian Hartman (of Progressive F.O.R.C.E Concepts)?

    If so, How easy is it to get gov contract and pass their vetting, if there is any?
    In a 2011 investigative series on police shootings, the Las Vegas Review-Journal revisited a 2003 case in which LVPD Officer Brian Hartman shot and killed a man named Orlando Barlow. Hartman shot Barlow in the back, as he was on his knees, unarmed, and attempting to surrender. According to the Review-Journal, Hartman and the other officers in his unit celebrated the shooting by printing up t-shirts “depicting Hartman’s rifle and the initials B.D.R.T. (Baby’s Daddy Removal Team), a racially charged term and reference to Barlow, who was black and who was watching his girlfriend’s children before he was shot.”

    • C. Myngs says:

      Based on his bio on PFC, you might be correct. But then, maybe they overlooked a bad shoot in Las Vegas because he was decorated by POTUS for his “actions under fire” while defending the US embassy in Moscow.

      • Darkhorse says:

        It’s correct- the same guy.

      • Bobby Denard says:

        Yeah, I just watched a video that was (partly) Hartman bragging about his time as a Marine Security Guard (MSG) and Clinton “flying out personally to decorate [his] unit.” Clinton might have given them a unit citation, but it was only in conjunction with an existing trip. He’s not flying to Moscow to give them an award for holding their fire.

        I bet the RSO told the MSGs they were on the frontlines, but being a MSG is very low speed, high drag.

    • Ex11A says:

      So all those Army sergeants and officers through the years were right, if the students look like ragbags, then the instructor is a ragbag.

  5. Payce says:

    This comment section is fuddtastic. Some dudes get some real training they’ll probably need and most of the comments are just bagging on them for their attire and for being AF. Grow up.

    • C. Myngs says:

      Oh come on, that guy’s wearing a camouflage visor! How can you not find that funny?!?!

    • Steve says:

      But do they NEED this level of small arms training? Yes, as TACPs they’ll be attached to Army ground combat units, but much like the Platoon Leader, if the TACP is running and gunning instead of on his radio calling in the hate, then it is indeed a very bad day for that platoon.

      • Bobby Denard says:

        Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

        Yes, their primary mission will be to call for fire, but sometimes you have to defend your position or react to an ambush before you can start raining down hate.

        You say yourself it’s a bad day if they are called on to be running and gunning, but bad days have happened, and when they happen again, it’s better to have them trained.

        But it’s a five day course. It’s not like it’s a huge drain from their primary missions.

    • Paul Fitsik III says:

      AF playing Army.. That IS funny!
      -Former Action Guy

      • SSD says:

        Since you are a “former action guy” I’m somewhat confused that you don’t know what a TACP is.

        • Bobby Denard says:

          Never met anyone in SF, including myself, that didn’t have anything but respect for TACPs (or CCTs, or anyone with a JTAC identifier, for that matter. We always wanted one if we could get one.)

      • Brett says:

        Those funny guys calling in air assets to save your ass…That IS ironic.

  6. TACPJustin says:

    The 93 AGOW is in the midst of ramping up training in a variety of areas. In this context, small team tactics are something we traditionally relied upon our supported units to provide through integrating their TACP into the platoon and company level training events.

    Over the years, these events have had to take a backseat to the ever increasing chase of JTAC currency requirements. This, combined with the ever decreasing likelihood of deploying with our aligned BDE or BN require us to create training opportunities outside of the preffered training cycle. Progressive Force Concepts runs a course that is tailored towards JTACs and fully realizes that we are enablers and not assaulters.

    TACPs have had to learn to adapt to the SOPs of whatever unit they end up supporting and the PFC course focuses on adaptability and lethality as a JTAC enabler in a sustained gunfight.