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New Mexico Steps Outside the Box to Improve Guard Soldiers' Weapons Skills

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (06/08/2007) -- The National Guard teamed up with the Border Patrol and other law enforcement organizations for advanced weapons training.

In late May, New Mexico hosted a 40-hour Gunfighter Course. Each Soldier or Airman fired about 2,500 rounds - more in a week than some fire during a six-year enlistment.

Guard members - most of them cadre from the state's Combat Arms Training Company - are going back and sharing their knowledge. "We take what we learn here back to CATC and teach advanced weapons training," said Maj. Frank Oliveira, CATC commander.

The Guard used an Albuquerque Police Department range and invited Border Patrol, police, corrections officers and other colleagues for the course that ended June 1. Of 40 students, about 25 were from the National Guard. The New Mexico Air National Guard loaned the weapons, and the state provided the ammunition.

Designed for people with intermediate to advanced skills, the course has become a New Mexico annual tradition. "Shooting is a perishable skill," said Sgt. 1st Class Manny Bustillos Jr., attending his third Gunfighter Course. "If you don't do it often, you lose it."

A study found that shooting skills decline after just eight days away from the weapon, said Pat Rogers, a former chief warrant officer in the Marine Corps, and a former New York City Police Department sergeant.

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