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Airman uses personal hobby to help his unit become better shooters

Technical Sgt. Israel Navarro (middle), 729th Air Control Squadron, demonstrates a laser-based, dry fire weapons training system Nov. 6, 2020, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah for Chief Master Sgt. Aron Garrard (right), 388th Maintenance Squadron, Nov. 6, 2020 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Airmen in 729th ACS are using the system for training to help them weapons qualify before deployments.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

Technical Sgt. Israel Navarro (middle), 729th Air Control Squadron, demonstrates a laser-based, dry fire weapons training system Nov. 6, 2020, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah for Chief Master Sgt. Aron Garrard (right), 388th Maintenance Squadron, Nov. 6, 2020 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Airmen in 729th ACS are using the system for training to help them weapons qualify before deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

Technical Sgt. Christopher Camacho, 729th Air Control Squadron, demonstrates a laser-based, dry fire weapons training system Nov. 6, 2020, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Airmen in 729th ACS are using the system for training to help them weapons qualify before deployments.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

Technical Sgt. Christopher Camacho, 729th Air Control Squadron, demonstrates a laser-based, dry fire weapons training system Nov. 6, 2020, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Airmen in 729th ACS are using the system for training to help them weapons qualify before deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --

An Airman at Hill Air Force Base has turned his personal hobby into a way for the Airmen in his squadron to become better shooters.

Tech. Sgt. Israel Navarro, 729th Air Control Squadron’s NCOIC for readiness and training, recognized a shortfall in training when the unit’s Airmen were sent to weapons qualify before a deployment.

“The typical just-in-time training we receive right before deployment does not give members the confidence and proficiency needed to handle themselves down range nor the trust needed to know the person next to you can handle covering your back,” said Navarro.

Navarro has a laser-based, dry fire training system in his home and he thought, “Why not bring this type of training to his squadron?”

Navarro researched a DOD-approved company that had already outfitted other military installations with weapons laser training systems and pitched the idea to his leadership.

The system can provide users with weapons familiarization and firing sequences in a safe and controlled manner. It’s also mobile and adaptable, providing flexibility on where and when the training is conducted.

“We are able to mimic the training used for weapons qualifications and create realistic scenarios based on deployment experiences to better prepare our members, and engrain a readiness mindset when it comes to weapons handling and use,” Navarro said.

The system was purchased using the squadron’s operational funds.

The cost of the system, which included the software, a M9 and M4 equipped with the infrared lasers and magazines, plus a projector and screen, battery packs and wood to construct a training post and a gun rest, was just under $10,000.

Navarro said the cost will eventually be recouped by saving time and money training Airmen in-house instead of sending them to remedial training if they fail to qualify at the installation’s Combat Arms Training and Maintenance firing range.

Since the 729th ACS implemented use of the weapons laser training system, 30 Airmen have been sent to the CATM range to qualify and did so on their first attempts.

Navarro is now demonstrating the system to other base chiefs and first sergeants.

“Those that have trained with it like the fact that it is a low threat system that lets them get the same feel of the real thing,” he said. “Everyone that has seen or had the chance to use the system absolutely loves it.”