Fort Sill_Although the Air Force is primarily known for having planes and missiles, some airmen stay on the ground with weapons. They're Security Forces, and on Friday at Fort Sill, a squadron from the Oklahoma Air National Guard got hands-on practice. The 137th Security Forces Squadron is based at Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City, and they'll be deployed to Southwest Asia this summer as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
For some of the airmen, it was their first time shooting the M-240 Semi Automatic Machine Gun, which fires 10-15 rounds of ammo per second. More than 30 Security Force specialists practiced shooting the guns at targets. It was a mixed group of airmen - half have experience, and half are being deployed for the first time. "I've deployed several times overseas," says Lieutenant Colonel James Snow. "In Operation Enduring Freedom, I've gone into Afghanistan, Oman, various other places."
"This is my gonna be my first deployment," says Airman First Class April Broadstone. "I've been in less than a year, so I'm very nervous, very excited though. It's gonna be great experience." Veteran Master Sergeant Christ Howard, with 18-years of service, says it's a great opportunity for the airmen. "It's excellent. It's definitely needed, obviously," he says. "It's a great opportunity, and for some of these men and women that haven't been over there yet, it's going to be really good for them."
Each of the airmen shoots hundreds of rounds with the M-240 machine guns, nicknamed "240 Bravos." Friday's exercise was just one day of the training for the airmen who will be deploying some time in June. "We've gone through extensive training to get ready: weapons, safety training, chemical training, everything to prepare us," says Broadstone.
For chemical training, they learned about using protective gear, and practiced shooting while wearing gas masks, along with using tripods, and bipods. As Security Forces, they'll work fourteen-hour days - with a lot of waiting, and watching - but ready at all times. "It's hard work," says Broadstone. "But we have to be on our toes, because we have to guard the base, protect the Air Force. We're the first line of defense."