Even in Iraq, Army training continues, and the best Army training involves getting to shoot, any weapon, anywhere. Today I got to fire on an Iraqi army rifle range, quite a change from the huge automated pop-up target ranges soldiers normally train on. Here it’s just a berm, a few lines of sandbags, and target racks made of old pallets held up by metal fence posts. But marksmanship is still marksmanship, and while the automated ranges are great, it was a hell of a lot of fun to shoot on that little, beat up, and heavily used range. Our camp hosts one of the Iraqi army basic training sites, along with several battalions of trained and operational Iraqi army units, so the ranges are always busy and the times that we can squeeze in are rare. We have had the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with AK-47’s and PKC Machine guns, which basically means taking them out and shooting them until we got bored or run out of Ammo (always the latter). Today we qualified again with our M16’s, which is a far more structured event. It went well for the most part, with one exception; since the range is small, the firing points are very close together. When you fire an M16A2, the brass ejects out the right side of the weapon, usually slightly forward but not always, and normally flies 4-6 feet. So today I found myself attempting to fire in the prone position, 5 feet to the right of another soldier. Brass, when ejected from an M16, is really, really hot. I mean really hot. Like branding iron hot. It also has the uncanny ability to fly down shirts, up sleeves, and occasionally down the back of your pants. I experienced all of the above. I did manage, is spite of the constant pelting of brass, to shoot a decent score, but significantly lower than I am used to. I was a little pissed at the time, but now that I have had a few hours to tend my wounds, I have calmed down. Hey, I got to shoot. The burns will heal. It could be worse, a lot worse. It could have gone down the front of my pants.
As an aside, if you are interested in taking a look at training of the Iraqi army from a soldier training them, I recommend checking out Making the NIA. He was here on our FOB until recently, when "his" battalion of Iraqis was relocated. He tells the straight story, good and bad. His blog unfortunately doesn’t do justice to his sense of humor. He is by far the funniest person I have met here, able to make light of any situation. He hasn’t posted recently due to very intermittent internet access at his new FOB. I hope this improves soon; I miss his wit, insight, and company. Good luck, my friend. Stay safe.