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Ready to fire with CA

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- To ensure Ellsworth is protected 24/7, a special team of 28th Security Forces Squadron Airmen train fellow servicemembers to safely operate and maintain weapons.

A combat arms instructor's primary job is to train all individuals who may be required to operate weapons in a variety of positions or environments.

"We are a huge customer service for the wing," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Warren, 28th SFS CA instructor of five and a half years. "We service all members here who carry [guns]."

Individuals eligible to attend weapons training classes include future deployers and those with duty qualification requirements, such as explosive ordnance disposal, SFS and Air Force Office of Special Investigations personnel.

Depending on weapon curriculum and attendance, classes can start around 7:30 a.m. and can last the entire duty day.

Training begins in the classroom, where individuals learn about different types of ammunitions, disassembling and assembling weapons and how to properly clean and maintain them. Instructors also teach the fundamentals required to effectively fire each type of weapon.

Following the classroom session, students head to the firing range to apply what they have learned in a series of firing drills.

Students are challenged with troubleshooting malfunctions and transitioning weapons during a simulated enemy engagement scenario.

Firearms training taught at Ellsworth's range include the M4 carbine, M9 pistol, the M240 and M249 machine guns, M203 grenade launcher and the M870 shotgun.

In addition to teaching, CA instructors' also perform behind the scenes operations, such as the inspection, maintenance and accountability of all weapons and ammunition stored in the base armory.

"It is important to keep inventory of all ammunition," said Senior Airman Jared Braden, 28th SFS CA instructor. "We have to keep track of what ammunition are being fired each class and what we have left at the end of each day. If not, it could lead to an investigation."

Warren emphasized when it comes to his job, it is all about teamwork.

"Making sure trained Airmen are ready to deploy with the weapon skills necessary is vital," Warren said. "If we don't get [our] job done, how can they win the fight?"

Additionally, Warren added that the training his team provides security forces personnel is vital for base protection.

"We teach a life skill," Warren said. "It's not about just pointing a gun and shooting the right way. How well you fire and safely handle a weapon can be the difference between life and death for your fellow Airman."