02 April 2009

Tough day at the firing range

Spc. Michael Alfassa, 25, corrects an Afghan soldier’s grip during the training in Maiwand district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The U.S. soldiers are from Company D, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment and are helping the Afghan army make the transition from Soviet-era weaponry to the rifles used by the U.S. Army. Photo: Drew Brown/Stars and Stripes.

Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

First, the Americans had to provide the bullets. The Afghans, who are always short on the most basic supplies, had been instructed by their commander not to waste their own ammo.

So, the soldiers gave the Afghans three rounds each to start. That would be enough to establish a basic shot pattern, and then they’d adjust the Afghans’ sights from there. If things went well, they’d have the Afghans zeroed in after nine to 12 shots each.

But when the Afghans started shooting, it became evident few of them had learned much from Bradley’s instruction.

Several Afghans insisted on shooting without the support of the sandbags. Many of them jerked the trigger, instead of squeezing it. The U.S. soldiers zeroed them as best they could, and if the Afghans got close to the center of the target, they figured that was good enough.

Then it became clear that many of the Afghans weren’t using their own rifles, which rendered any effort to get them zeroed mostly pointless.

"He’s got a good shot group," said Sgt. Louis Arroyo, 35, of Miami, as he examined the target of one Afghan soldier. "If he’d had his own weapon, I’d have dead-centered him."

Arroyo turned to the Afghan soldier and congratulated him.

"Next time, use your own weapon, and I’ll put you here," he said, pointing to the middle of the target.

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