Training across Fort Bliss, Texas, came to a rapid halt shortly after the Coronavirus arrived in the United States earlier this year, and although the threat remains, training recently resumed with protocols in place to ensure Soldier safety.
Last week, nearly 300 Soldiers with the 93rd Military Police Battalion spent five days at the McGregor Range Complex in New Mexico, qualifying on multiple weapons systems — from the M9 pistol to the M320 grenade launcher.
The training was the same, but the face coverings, gloves and social distancing guidelines were all new.
1st Lt. Gustavo Mora, 93rd MP Battalion executive officer, said he was happy to be back on the range, even if the process was slightly more cumbersome.
“Prior to arriving at the range, each Soldier was screened by the battalion medics,” he explained. “If they show COVID-19 symptoms, they won’t go out to the range; they’ll get further assessment. We are also making sure Soldiers wear their masks, and when they are firing they wear gloves, so there is no cross contamination.”
Throughout the week Soldiers arrived at the range in platoon-sized elements to avoid having too many people at the range at one time, making it easier to space out. Other safety measures in place were handwashing stations and ground guidelines spaced six feet apart.
Mora said, “It’s a little different and it’s definitely taking a little longer to ensure we qualify, especially when it comes to qualifying a whole battalion, but at the end of the day, we are ensuring the Soldiers are adhering to the COVID-19 precautionary measures and being safe, while also getting some good training.”
The 93rd MPs typically qualify Soldiers several times a year, but COVID-19 stopped all non-mission essential training in early spring.
“The pandemic caused a longer than normal time away from ranges and created a more complex problem set to train in,” said Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Phillip Warren. “[We] conducted essential ranges in the March and April timeframe to sustain a few Soldiers for law enforcement requirements, but not to the magnitude of the past week’s range operations.”
Warren said maximizing the COVID-19 protocols allowed the 93rd MPs to safely and effectively qualify more than 230 military police Soldiers, which is important because the M9 pistol is their daily weapon for law enforcement and taking care of the Fort Bliss community.
“It’s extremely important for Soldiers to feel comfortable on it,” added Mora. “Although we’re in COVID times, we still need to ensure all Soldiers are trained, especially new Soldiers coming into the military, because you never know when you’re going to be deployed, so it’s extremely important to be familiar with your weapons systems.”