Reservist

ISS2 2018

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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O ne of the hallmarks of the Coast Guard is its law enforcement (LE) mission, and while there's great pride in the service's LE history, one of its main programs needed a dramatic overhaul. "We've always put emphasis on physical tactics and use of force," said Petty Officer 1st Class Vinnie Sinacola, a reservist at Coast Guard Station Belle Isle in Detroit, "but when it came to the weapons qualifications and marksmanship, the training wasn't there." Sinacola was active duty for almost ten years before joining the Reserve six months ago. As a senior coxswain and six-year boarding officer, he'd spent many days qualifying at the range, but practice opportunities were limited. He remembered watching the firearms instructors (FAI) marking the targets. "It wasn't a matter of getting enough 4s and 5s," said Sinacola speaking about the old system of grading a target of concentric circles. "It was that we weren't getting enough rounds on [target] at all. It was anticipating, jerking the trigger." He said the only way Coast Guardsmen could get practice was to take their personal weapons to a range on their own time. What the Coast Guard was really missing was training, said Mike Rose, a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer with almost a dozen units' worth of LE experience. In Rose's twilight tour, a six-year stint at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), he began noting best practices by three-letter federal agencies and military branches. "None of this is my invention," said Rose. "We knew the system was broken based on the statistics." More than half of all Coast Guardsmen shooting the basic pistol course (PPC) were failing to qualify – a waste of thousands of dollars of ammunition. The negligent discharge (unintended shots fired, usually in a clearing barrel) rate was more than 20 per year. The evaluation of use of force was based on a predictable program decades old. The Coast Guard needed change in a big way. Rose's ideas began to gather steam in the form of a strategic needs assessment (SNA) chartered by the Operational Human Performance Advisory Council. The SNA identified 21 interventions needed to correct gaps in policy, procedures and training across the service. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Todd Cash, the weapons program manager for the Coast Guard's Office of Capabilities (CG-7), helped assemble a team to nail down a solution. Lt. Cmdr. Andy Greenwood of the Coast Guard's Force Readiness Command (FORCECOM) and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Phillip Campanella, chief of training for weapons schools at Training Center Yorktown, Va., joined the team to cover all the bases. WE TRAIN FOR EVERYTHING Once service members left boot camp, they had limited weapons training. At the range, small arms instructors would give a quick rundown of what to expect during the course of fire, and from that moment, the very first shot to hit the target was graded. "You're not going to give a coxswain a 45-minute safety lecture and then tell him to go out and drive a boat," said Cash, "but that's essentially what we were doing with guns." Rose had seen how the FLETC instructors (who all came from different LE backgrounds) spent time on the range, breaking down something as small as "why does your grip matter?" The instructors would demonstrate and dissect techniques, building understanding until the students could apply those same principles, adjust their accuracy and raise their scores. Rose knew the Coast Guard needed something similar. "FAIs weren't taught to be instructors, they were taught to run a range, which is one of the problems we found," said Rose. "When it came to diagnosing troubled shooters, that part of the manual was blank." The team spent more than a year working to restructure the process to include training and a more dynamic course of fire. They tested it at Training Center Cape May on recruits, and last January, phases I – III of the Firearms Training and Evaluation – Pistol (FT&E-P) course permanently replaced the basic and practical pistol courses (BPC and PPC). The new course includes four hours of pistol techniques in a classroom, and then moves to the range where a "crawl, walk, run" method exposes the shooters to 200 rounds of practical application. Only the last 50 shots are marked, and with the new system. During the one-year testing phase, qualification rates shot up to 93 percent, much to the delight FAIs around the country. First-timers were qualifying, and units made fewer repeat trips to the range. "I wasn't a great shot when I came in, because I didn't have a lot of time or practice," said Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Galbreath, a reserve BTM at Belle Isle, "but with the new course, the people who don't get to shoot a lot are getting more time and more instruction. I've seen vast improvement in people's scores — the more you practice, the more you progress." Galbreath is a Border Patrol agent in his civilian job who's carried a sidearm daily for the last nine years. He's become very comfortable shooting handguns, but he said the FT&E-P is good for those service members who don't have that everyday exposure to firearms. Chief Petty Officer Tim Lieb, FAI for Port Security Unit 309 in Port Clinton, Ohio, is a police officer with the city of Cleveland, and he carries a sidearm daily. He attended the "train the trainer" course where he learned teaching techniques and the new course of fire. Lieb said last year only two of the 120-member PSU didn't pass the new course – a huge difference in the qualification rates in the past. He credited his unit's high rate of qualification to the trainers being better prepared to teach, as well as the student's ability to learn and practice before being tested. Sinacola agreed, citing the fact that not a single person at Station Belle Isle failed to pass the course. "Now [members are] getting time to be comfortable. The people who couldn't qualify before, they're qualifying now." DOUBLE TIME While the program has been successful, there have been concerns that it requires a lot of range time for reservists, who already have a challenge to keeping up currency cycles (boat hours). The course consumes almost two days' worth of drills twice a year. (Previously, range visits lasted about half a day.) This is nearly 10 percent of a reservist's training availability. Chief Petty Officer Jarrod Sadulski, the senior enlisted reserve advisor (SERA) for Station Lake Worth Inlet, Fla., spent twenty years split between the active and reserve components in the Coast Guard's busiest law enforcement region, District Seven. He's also served as a sworn officer with the Sunrise Police Department in Florida. Sadulski acknowledged the success of the program, but cited problems trying to find a range that was open on the weekend for not just one, but now two days in a row, twice a year. 20 RESERVIST � Issue 2 • 2018

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