MacDill airmen practice for down-to-earth emergencies

- When you think of MacDill Air Force Base you may think of the aerial refueling tankers that keep our warplanes flying all over the world. But what you may not know is that most of the people who fly and work on those planes have to train on the shooting range, along with many others on the base.

We spent the day with Air Force firearms instructors, staff sergeants Branden Warren and Charles Kenney of the 6th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms. There were nine students in their class, ranging from a veteran military police sergeant to an Army computer specialist.

One thing most of them have in common is they must have the training to be assigned overseas. Computer specialist Elizabeth Ballesteros believed this kind of training is critical, no matter what your job is in the military.

"You see in the news what's going on. This should never be taken lightly," she said.

In Afghanistan, three U.S. soldiers were killed by what were believed to be friendly Afghan soldiers.  In an ever-more-dangerous world, protecting our forces became even more critical. The instructors at MacDill are part of the Air Force, but the base has every branch at the joint commands CENTCOM and SOCOM and JCSE, the Joint Communications Support Element.

The training is also required for some civilian employees. They all train side-by-side and it's serious.

"When we instruct students, we do it with the mindset that something is going to happen and they're going to use the skills we're training," said Kenney.

Students must qualify with a 9mm pistol, the M-4 rifle, or both, depending on their job.  There are other requirements that must be fulfilled for overseas assignments such as a mental health screening and legal paperwork, but some believe this training is the most important requirement.

"The more you practice here, the better you'll be when you go forward," said Ballesteros.

It's a skill they hope they never have to use, but they're trained in case they have to.

On this day, everyone in this class successfully qualified. Several even received "sharpshooter" and "expert" status.

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