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Combat arms instructors build effective marksmen

Staff Sgt. Stephen Horton, 36th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of resource protection and physical security, fires an M4 carbine at a target July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Weapons qualification is often done in preparation for deployments, for certain permanent changes of station and annually for certain career fields. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Stephen Horton, 36th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of resource protection and physical security, fires an M4 carbine at a target July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Weapons qualification is often done in preparation for deployments, for certain permanent changes of station and annually for certain career fields. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. William Adkins, 36th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, calculates the adjustments Airman 1st Class Mylia Simpson, 36th SFS entry controller, needs to make on her M4 carbine’s sights to be more accurate onJuly 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The target is used to determine how sights need to be adjusted and consists of a four quadrant grid with a target in the center. If the shots fired all land in an area other than the target, the grid system indicates the variance and in which direction to adjust rear and front sights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. William Adkins, 36th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, calculates the adjustments Airman 1st Class Mylia Simpson, 36th SFS entry controller, needs to make on her M4 carbine’s sights to be more accurate onJuly 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The target is used to determine how sights need to be adjusted and consists of a four quadrant grid with a target in the center. If the shots fired all land in an area other than the target, the grid system indicates the variance and in which direction to adjust rear and front sights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Airman 1st Class Mylia Simpson, 36th Security Forces Squadron entry controller, adjusts the front sight of her M4 carbine July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The target is used to determine how sights need to be adjusted and consists of a four quadrant grid with a target in the center. If the shots fired all land in an area other than the target, the grid system indicates the variance and in which direction to adjust rear and front sights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Airman 1st Class Mylia Simpson, 36th Security Forces Squadron entry controller, adjusts the front sight of her M4 carbine July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The target is used to determine how sights need to be adjusted and consists of a four quadrant grid with a target in the center. If the shots fired all land in an area other than the target, the grid system indicates the variance and in which direction to adjust rear and front sights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Lolita Aguon and Senior Airman William Brown, 36th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructors, demonstrate firing techniques July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Weapons qualification is often done in preparation for deployments, for certain permanent changes of station and annually for certain career fields. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Lolita Aguon and Senior Airman William Brown, 36th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructors, demonstrate firing techniques July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Weapons qualification is often done in preparation for deployments, for certain permanent changes of station and annually for certain career fields. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Senior Airman William Brown, 36th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, gives advice to 36th SFS Airmen as they zero-in their weapons July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Andersen’s combat arms team trains service members and civilians from many Department of Defense organizations.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Senior Airman William Brown, 36th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, gives advice to 36th SFS Airmen as they zero-in their weapons July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Andersen’s combat arms team trains service members and civilians from many Department of Defense organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Stephen Horton, 36th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of resource protection and physical security, fires a M4 carbine while using a mounted flashlight to illuminate his target July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Training conducted at night consists of using flashlights, night vision sights, lasers and infrared targeting systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Stephen Horton, 36th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of resource protection and physical security, fires a M4 carbine while using a mounted flashlight to illuminate his target July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Training conducted at night consists of using flashlights, night vision sights, lasers and infrared targeting systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Lolita Aguon, 36th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, demonstrates safe and effective use of the M9 pistol July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Andersen’s combat arms team trains service members and civilians from many Department of Defense organizations on safe and effective use of firearms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Lolita Aguon, 36th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, demonstrates safe and effective use of the M9 pistol July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Andersen’s combat arms team trains service members and civilians from many Department of Defense organizations on safe and effective use of firearms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Stephen Horton, 36th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of resource protection and physical security, assembles an M9 pistol during annual qualification training July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Prior to firing, students are taught how to handle their weapon, take it apart and conduct preventative maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Staff Sgt. Stephen Horton, 36th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of resource protection and physical security, assembles an M9 pistol during annual qualification training July 7, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Prior to firing, students are taught how to handle their weapon, take it apart and conduct preventative maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)

Andersen Air Force Base, Guam -- A red flag waves at the entrance of the Andersen Air Force Base firing range, warning personnel passing by that firing is in process. On the range, military members and civilians train with combat arms instructors from the 36th Security Forces Squadron to ensure personnel are meeting training requirements and can effectively defend military assets and people in a hostile environment.

“To me, fulfilling this mission means ensuring that whoever goes out that door comes back,” said Tech. Sgt. Yerida Vazquez, 36th SFS NCO in charge of combat arms. “Knowing that we do our best to qualify and teach students how to utilize their weapons is essential to us. We want to see those individuals come back home, so we emphasize safety when it comes to the weapon, but we also focus on using the weapon if the need arises.”

On average, 50 to 70 students come to the training facility each month. The outdoor firing range supports those who are required to qualify yearly in addition to service members preparing for deployment or those that are required to qualify for a permanent change of station. In addition to training service members, the range also supports many outside agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture, Guam Police Department and the United States Marshals Service.

“We’re one of the only ranges on island, so in turn, I would say we help keep the island safe because multiple government agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Federal Bureau of Investigation use this range to qualify,” said Staff Sgt. William Adkins, 36th SFS combat arms instructor. “They’re out there keeping the entire island safe, and we facilitate that by letting them use our range. I feel we have a big impact by operating this range.”

In addition to supporting many outside agencies, the versatile range allows combat arms instructors to provide training on several weapons systems such as the M4 carbine, M11 pistol, M9 pistol, the Remington M870 shotgun, and heavy weapons including the M240 machine gun, M249 light machine gun and M203 grenade launcher. Their skill with various weapons systems and teaching techniques enables them to provide training to many agencies.

The instructors are identifiable by their red hats that are a symbol of their skill in their field. To earn the red hat, most instructors go through the Air Force’s standard retraining process except they are required to be a security forces member before applying. Those that don the red hat after nine weeks of training are technical experts in the fields of training and maintenance for combat arms.

Part of the combat arms team’s responsibilities includes keeping track of all the weapons assigned to the 36th Wing and inspecting and performing required maintenance annually. Regular maintenance keeps weapons safe, reliably accurate and decreases the chance of jamming.

The instructors follow the Combat Arms Instructor’s Creed as they perform their duties in maintaining weapons and teaching combat skills. The creed states that their efforts are for the men and women they train. The Air Force’s profession of arms depends on the instructors’ abilities to maintain a force capable of defending itself in times of peace and war.

“I’m motivated by knowing that we keep the people who protect the base safe,” Adkins said. “If they have to use their weapon, it’s usually in a life or death situation and we train them to operate on muscle memory so they can react accordingly and use their weapon to save their own life and the lives of others.”

As firing ceases at the end of the day, the flag lowers, signaling that training has been completed for the day and the combat arms instructors return to their homes knowing they’ve helped build effective marksmen charged with protecting Air Force assets and people.