Coast Guard firearms instructor uses sharp eye, soft hand to train maritime law enforcers

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Cassandra Kintzley, a gunner’s mate at Coast Guard Sector Boston, works at the Fort Devens firing range, in Massachusetts, Wednesday, September, 20, 2017, to qualify Coast Guard members in weapons handling. Kintzley, a highly skilled shooter, trains Coast Guard men and women who enforce maritime laws, and protect Northeast ports and waterways. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Cassandra Kintzley, works to qualify Coast Guard members in weapons handling.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham.

Story and photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham

As the last bullets pierced the paper target, Cassandra Kintzley’s tight eyes eased, allowing her face to fall into a smile. She raised her arms and gently applauded.

The shooter, Kintzley’s apprentice, just passed his Pistol Firearm Training Evaluation. He, too, grinned as he raised his open hand to meet his trainer’s, solidifying their success with a slap.

“Hey!” another man’s voice hollered from a few yards away, “there’s no clapping in shooting!”

Beaming at her partner, Kintzley cheerily said “but he did amazing!” Kintzley is well-aware she is not a typical military firearms instructor.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Cassandra Kintzley is a gunner’s mate at Coast Guard Sector Boston. A soft-spoken and demure woman, she is also a highly skilled shooter.

Coast Guard firearms instructor uses sharp eye, soft hand to train maritime law enforcers

Using her sharp eye and soft hand, Kintzley trains Coast Guard men and women who enforce maritime laws, and protect Northeast ports and waterways. Her delicate instructing style helps ease newcomers’ nerves on the range.

“People are inherently nervous at the firing range, so I aim to be patient and build them up,” she said. “When people are calm, their listening skills and focus improve – which is absolutely critical in learning the basics of using a weapon.”

Kintzley’s goal is not only teaching people to shoot, but to instill necessary confidence when using a weapon.

Only from there, with a solid understanding of the basics, can a qualified weapons handler confidently go on to hone further skills needed to enforce laws at sea.

Although now an expert weapons handler, Kintzley didn’t start out a great shot and savvy firearms instructor.

The Colorado native had no experience in weaponry when she joined the Coast Guard, but, upon enlisting, set her sights on becoming a gunner’s mate – a rating that entails working in armories afloat and ashore maintaining weapons, ammunition, and pyrotechnics.

Early on in training, Kintzley’s open mind helped her in learning to use Coast Guard small arms and machine guns – but it didn’t make her a deadeye.

Coast Guard firearms instructor uses sharp eye, soft hand to train maritime law enforcersWith only bare minimum scores on her first qualification trials, Kintzley relied heavily on the patience of her teachers, who eventually coached her into a skilled shooter with consistent repeat scores on the pistol, rifle, and shotgun.

It wasn’t long after becoming a qualified gunner’s mate that Kintzley reflected on the care of her instructors and felt inspired to pay that patience forward.

Kintzley attended the Firearms Instructor Course, a program strongly focused on range safety and competence which, upon completion, determines if a shooter is capable to run a range independently.

Additionally, she completed advanced practical pistol, combat pistol, and riot shot gun courses to further bolster her skill.

Today, as a calm, confident instructor, Kintzley’s prowess on the range helps each student build an unfailing foundation in weapons handling.

“Sure, we work with a lot of people who are naturally great shooters, but I need to know that every person who leaves my care will have the confidence to protect themselves, or someone else, with their personal defense weapon,” she said.

Her commitment is evident in the people she trains.

The crew at Coast Guard Station Merrimack River, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, recently qualified with Kintzley and her firearms training team.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Shay, the second in command at Station Merrimack River, whose crew conducted more than 300 safety and security boardings last year, said having well-trained weapon handlers is essential to mission success.

“The patience Petty Officer Kintzley offered my crew was incredible,” he said.

He said she paid great attention to his younger crewmembers, working with them closely to cultivate self-confidence and proficiency. Shay described Kintzley as a skilled gunner’s mate and devoted mentor on and off the firing range.

“She doesn’t give up on anyone, she always steps up to help,” he added.

Down range, praise for the first trainee’s aced evaluation lulled. The next shooter stepped up to face the target. As the student readied for his assessment, Kintzely stood slightly behind him. She regained a serious expression and leaned forward with her hands resting on her slightly bent knees.

Coast Guard firearms instructor uses sharp eye, soft hand to train maritime law enforcersA few seconds of quiet passed and Kintzley’s partner hollered, “threat!”

Several shots fired and it was quiet again.

The trainee broke the silence with a sharp sigh.

He didn’t pass, but Kintzley smiled patiently.

She reassured him she would review the procedure with him again. He nodded in relief and stepped aside – eager for more practice and intent on becoming a patient and skilled marksman himself. That kind of determination, Kintzley said, is hands down her favorite thing about serving on the firing range.

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