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161st ARW Defenders conduct annual training

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Auston Baker, a defender with the 161st Security Forces Squadron, steadies his aim as he shoots at his targets on the firing range at Camp Navajo, Arizona, Aug. 17, 2021.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Auston Baker, a defender with the 161st Security Forces Squadron, steadies his aim as he shoots at his targets on the firing range at Camp Navajo, Arizona, Aug. 17, 2021. The Airmen of the 161st Security Forces Squadron trained in M4 and M9 Weapons Sustainment as part of their Annual Training.

CAMP NAVAJO, Ariz. – Defenders from the 161st Security Forces Squadron traveled from Goldwater Air National Guard Base to Camp Navajo for five days of Annual Training, August 16-20.

This year’s training intended to collaborate with the Army National Guard, remain effective and efficient and keep to an overall state of readiness. Their training consisted of land navigation, troop leading procedures, and weapons sustainment with the M4 carbine and M9 pistol.

“We have our annual qualifications that we do, and in conjunction with that, we also do sustainment training, stuff that we don’t normally get to do,” said Master Sgt. Robert Ehle, 161st Security Forces Squadron combat arms NCOIC. “Air Force qualifications have you shooting 25 meters, paper targets, so they’re all scaled. Here, we’re shooting live distance, out to 300, with pop-up targets for both weapons. Something different, something to hone your skills and get quicker and more accurate.”

Some defenders had a chance to qualify for the new M18 pistol, which is slated to replace the M9 as their default sidearm in the future.

“We just got a new weapon system, the M18,” Ehle said. “It’s replacing the M9 Berettas, so we’ll be doing our annual qualifications in November for all of Security Forces. Before we can teach a weapon system, we have to be qualified on it first, so we took the opportunity to get all of the instructors qualified.”

Due to its geographical location in northern Arizona, the terrain of Camp Navajo helps Airmen apply what they have been learning in the classroom. That includes reading the terrain features on a topographical map, shooting grid/magnetic azimuth, and working with a compass and protractor.

“You never know what your mission’s going to be,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Ong, 161st Security Forces Squadron S3 training instructor. “Land navigation is an important skill to have, and it’s one I feel like people should be excited to brush up on. Camp Navajo’s terrain’s fair. You can use terrain associate at some points, and there are some points where you have to thoroughly rely on your map and grid work, so you get the best of both worlds.”

This time was also used for M4 and M9 qualification training at the firing range under the guidance of Combat Arms Training and Maintenance personnel for some Airmen. CATM is responsible for training in small arms, as well as maintaining the equipment. Consistent attention to detail kept the learning environment safe, particularly around the range, as Airmen treated every weapon as if it were loaded even after properly clearing them.

On the last day of training, the defenders ran through a Military Operations in Urban Terrain course, where they cleared rooms in tight-quarters environments. Teams took turns navigating structures and the surrounding woods to apprehend opposing forces. This served as an opportunity for Airmen who usually only work together one weekend a month to work on their comradery.

“It’s a great group, and they had a blast,” Ehle said. “We have a lot of new people, whether they be prior service or just new to the military or the unit. It’s hard when you only get to see people for one weekend a month, so it’s great to get everybody out here and get to know people and have fun with them.”

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