CAPE MAY, N.J. — Recruits from Coast Guard Training Center Cape May shot live ammunition for the first time since 2009 at a range on board the FAA Technical Center in Galloway, N.J., Wednesday.
Members of recruit company LIMA-191 were instructed by range instructors at an indoor range at the FAA Technical Center in order to qualify for the basic pistol course. This is the first group of recruits to shoot live ammunition during recruit training in six years.
“It is our job to prepare, as best we can, recruits for the rigors of our service,” said Capt. Todd Prestidge, commanding officer of Coast Guard Training Center Cape May. “The reality is, a lot of these people are going to operational units and need the initial exposure to weapons and weapon handling they would receive here to set them up for success at their units in the fleet.”
The importance of ensuring the readiness for all missions and advancing the Coast Guard’s commitment to a more proficient workforce is part of Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, vision for the service while under his command. Zukunft was quoted in a Jan. 2015 article in Defense Media Network as saying, “…if you’re not investing in your workforce, training them and giving them the specialty skills that they need for the 21st century, you may find a shiny white ship without a crew that can exploit the full range of capability of that platform, and to be able to support it and maintain it.”
“Developing this support agreement with the FAA Technical Center is going to help us realize the Commandant’s vision of a better prepared workforce,” said Prestidge.
The outdoor range located at the training center has been closed since Dec. 30, 2009 following an investigation into a mishap that uncovered issues with the range that disqualified it as a viable training aid due to safety issues. In the eight months between February 2009 and December 2009, approximately 38 ricochet projectiles were found at various distances between the firing line and the bullet trap, with 75 additional ricochet projectiles found on the roof that stood over the firing line itself.
With concern over the safety of the recruits and the instructors, the use of the range for live fire was stopped. The training center then began using a classroom simulator to evaluate recruits, however these recruits were not able to become qualified in the basic pistol course as a result.
The facility engineering department on board the training center has worked with inspectors verifying the safety and environmental concerns of the range and have yet to determine a way forward in mitigating the problems. It would cost nearly $10 million to build a range that met today’s safety standards.