Other duties as assigned

I occasionally refer to our section in the office as the "battalion labor pool." Since we're low-ranking and our jobs are relatively unimportant, we frequently get pulled away from them to do other things that need doing. This is usually something like picking up garbage around the armory parking lot or moving heavy objects from one place to another, or making photocopies of 2,000,000,000 personnel records or something.

Once in a while, it is something cooler. A few weeks ago I stood on the baseline at Safeco Field for Armed Forces Appreciation Night on day 2 of the Oakland-Seattle series, one of five people representing the Army National Guard. I'm not a big baseball fan, but I'm perfectly willing to watch a game on someone else's dime, and I didn't have to dress up or anything. (Rightfully, as a ceremonial/public relations occasion, we should have been in our dress uniforms like all of the other services, but since mine is woefully out of date anyway, I'm not complaining.) Highlight of the evening was Oakland's Mark Swisher veering off in our direction to flirt with my (female) coworker. I had my 3 seconds of fame when the television cameras focused in on him while we happened to be shaking hands. My company commander sent me a video clip.

On Thursday morning of this week, as I was trying in vain to get into the translation I was doing, SSG Huggie Bear stopped by. He said something about Captain-Major [name] (so-called because he has just been promoted and we never remember that he's a Major now) and guns and shooting and weekend and skipping drill--good enough for Sig.

Turns out that the annual interservice Small Arms Firing School was going on Thursday through Sunday and they had a lot of vacancies. Half an hour later, SPC Slash (she who once stabbed a staff sergeant) and me were meeting nationally ranked rifle marksmen (including at least one member of the President's Hundred) who were going to spend the weekend giving us individual instruction in how to kill someone from very far away using a rifle.

(Here is an article about last year's course.)

One of my big pet peeves with the Army is how we all get Basic Rifle Marksmanship during Basic Combat Training--and never get anything else. Subsequent rifle training is a repeat of BRM. It also often feels like the blind leading the blind, as the instructors are frequently just teaching as they have been taught without any real understanding of why. Unless you go to sniper school--virtually impossible for anyone not infantry, certainly impossible for a Guard MI puke--you never get much else. And only shooting twice a year (at best) to qualify, you never have the practice to develop good shooting habits.

[Recently, the Army has started pushing its Squad Designated Marksman program, which puts training and an accurized M-16 into the hands of soldiers for situations between 300 and 600 meters, which BRM does not cover. Many units also end up using M-14s, our combat rifle before the M-16, as they are insanely accurate at long ranges.]

Anyway, I spent Thursday and Friday in a classroom learning and practicing dry-fire and stances and various positions under the tutelage of people who do this competitively at a level where the difference between 1st and 2nd place is not measured in points, but how many X's you hit. Yesterday we fired a modified National Match Course at 200, 300, and 500 yards. If you had told me before this week that I could take a standard rack-grade M-16A2 that I'd never fired before and within 15 minutes be putting 5.56mm holes in the 10 and X ring from 200 yards away while standing, I'd have laughed in your face.

It wasn't as consistent as I'd have liked, but I was putting killing rounds downrange almost every time. We also fired seated at 200 yards; the 300 and 500 yard fires were done prone.

The guy I worked with the most, Dave Merdich, was excellent. While the course was primarily geared toward competitive rifle shooting, he had lots of practical advice for both competition and tactical situations. He strongly encouraged me to get into the sport and to convince my wife to let me buy a match grade rifle.

I don't know about that--I have enough expensive hobbies. But I really enjoyed the course and I'm a lot more confident of my ability to do it when it needs doing in real life.

Unfortunately, I am home sleeping off a bad cold today instead of doing the last course of fire, the National Guard Combat Rifle Course. I'd been fighting it off all week, and being out in the elements on really short sleep just made things worse. No way was I going to handle a loaded rifle when I keep going into massive hacking fits.

But, downer ending aside, I had a lot of fun this week. Any day you draw weapons is a good Army day.