FORT KNOX, Ky. – Cadet Initial Entry Training (CIET), 2nd Regiment, Alpha Company practiced their marksmanship skills with hands-on training at George Blair Range June 14.
When it comes to basic rifle marksmanship training, many CIET Cadets arrive never having held a weapon.
“With CIET, generally, only about a quarter of them have a lot of experience with an M-16 or an M-4. Somewhere around a quarter haven’t ever fired a weapon at all,” said Lt. Col. Ted Priester, the basic rifle marksmanship committee chief for Cadet Summer Training (CST) and professor of military science at North Dakota State University.
The gap in training makes marksmanship difficult for most CIET Cadets, according to Priester, a native of Golden, Colo.
Firing a rifle was a challenge for Cdt. Marissa Alexander, a rising junior majoring in psychology at New York University.
“I have never held a weapon in my life. I was so nervous. I was sure that I was going to miss the target completely,” said Alexander, a San Diego native.
For Cdt. Nathan Risk of East Carolina University, the instruction was more than familiar.
He qualified as an expert, hitting 39 out of 40 targets.
To qualify as a marksmen, a shooter must hit 23 to 29 out of 40 targets. To qualify as a sharpshooter, 30 to 35 targets must be hit, and an expert must hit at least 36.
“I felt completely normal and comfortable. It’s something I’ve done a couple hundred times, so I just felt relaxed and just got in the groove,” said Risk, a history major and native of Newburn, N.C.
While few Cadets have previous experience with marksmanship, even fewer qualify as experts.
“My dad taught me to shoot when I was really young. He’s been in the Army for 35 years. I just started – when I turned 16 – just started driving myself to the range every week and started working,” Risk, the rising sophomore, recounted.
The ultimate goal of grouping and zeroing is for Cadets to increase their confidence, discipline and expertise while acclimating to shooting a military weapon, according to Priester.
Grouping is ensuring all rounds shot are hitting close to the same spot on the target, while zeroing is making sure the spot on the target is close to where the shooter is aiming.
“We’ve really been focusing on three things: confidence – that they understand their weapon can work and they build confidence both in the weapon system and their ability; discipline – the fundamentals… are all about being aware of what you’re doing with your body and your weapon; and expertise – they’re seeing what right looks like out here in both the training, and they get immediate feedback,” Priester expressed.
“The first one I did, I missed four times. But the next time, I did a lot better. I got more confident as I went on,” Cdt. Alexander expressed.
According to Drill Sergeant for CIET, Second Regiment, Alpha Company, SSgt. Andre Adams, only eight Cadets out of 220 qualified after two rotations.