CATM classes continue, using COVID-19 guidelines
By Roland Balik, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 18, 2020
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructors assigned to the 436th Security Forces Squadron resumed training and qualification classes for Team Dover members by incorporating established COVID-19 social distancing and sanitization guidelines to provide a safe training environment while meeting mission needs.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, M4 and M9 training and qualification classes were held on separate days for each weapon, with approximately 21-25 students per class.
Under new training procedures, M4 and M9 classes are now combined into a longer single day of training, with a maximum occupancy of 14 students.
CATM instructors provide the students with enough information to make them feel comfortable and confident enough to qualify on each weapon.
“We know that Security Forces is relied upon to continue providing unrivaled mission support in order for Team Dover to execute its mission,” said Lt. Col. Schneider Rislin, 436th Security Forces Squadron commander. “We wanted to ensure we could continue weapon qualification for our deployers, so CATM devised a COVID-19-friendly course of action to safely conduct this critical training.”
Currently, M4 and M9 training is provided to Team Dover members in the following order of priority: deployment, permanent change of station, duty fire and sustainment.
“We never actually stopped [training] … There were mission-essential people who needed to fire,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Haller, 436th SFS combat arms training noncommissioned officer in charge. “We just ramped back up within the past week.”
To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Haller and SFS leadership determined that unit-specific training would be the best course of action.
“It eliminates cross-contamination between the squadrons,” said Haller. “So if someone does become sick, it only is going to stay within that squadron.”
A rotating schedule was devised to protect the CATM instructors and keep them healthy.
“We have two three-person teams for the six-man shop; that’s in case one of us CATM instructors gets sick, the other three-person team can still complete the mission,” said Haller.
Upon entering the CATM building, posted signage reminds students to wear their masks and use hand sanitizer throughout the day.
“They [students] have the guarantee that all the classrooms have been sanitized,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Bracero-Camareno, 436th SFS combat arms instructor. “Every time we finish a class or break for lunch, the room gets sanitized.”
Using a two-gallon pressurized sprayer and spray bottles, the instructors sanitize the offices, classrooms and the firing range at least three times a day.
“The magazines and cleaning equipment also get sanitized after use; it’s all sprayed down with bleach-water [solution] after every use,” said Haller.
CATM students are instructed to wear a mask whenever six feet of separation cannot be maintained, whether in the classroom or on the firing range.
Attending CATM for an upcoming deployment, Airman 1st Class Kaleigh O’Hara, 436th Comptroller Squadron budget analyst, stated, “Wearing the mask is definitely difficult … but I feel comfortable.”
In addition, mask wear on the firing range can create a minor inconvenience for some users.
“The eye pro [goggles] starts getting foggy a little bit,” said Bracero-Camareno. “I tell the students they can move the mask a little below their nose only when they are shooting.”
Whether it’s for a deployment or a PCS, CATM instructors are keeping Team Dover’s air mobility warriors trained, qualified and mission-ready throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am proud of my CATM instructors’ ability to adapt to a changing environment and still get the mission done,” said Rislin.