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310th Space Wing combat arms instructors prevent serious injury during weapons training

A man fires a gun.

Senior Airman Ryan Cisneros, a 310th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructor, fires an M240B machine gun at the airburst range on Fort Carson, Colorado, Aug. 2, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ronald Metherell)

A man and a woman standing next to each other holding award citations.

Staff Sgts. Samantha Tuner and Zachary Fiske, 310th Security Forces Squadron combat arms instructors, pose for a picture on Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Aug. 17, 2020. Fiske and Turner were awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal for preventing serious injury to Airmen while conducting M240B machine gun proficiency training at the Fort Carson air burst range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marko Salopek)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

The swift action of two Airmen prevented potentially serious bodily injury during M240B machine gun live fire readiness training on the airburst range at Fort Carson, Colorado, Aug 1.

Staff Sgts. Zachary Fiske and Samantha Turner, both 310th Space Wing combat arms training and maintenance instructors, were each awarded The Air Force Achievement Medal Aug. 17 for their rapid and decisive action, which prevented serious injury to their fellow Airmen.

During one of the live-fire portions of the training, Fiske rescued two Airmen from a malfunction that caused a round to explode inside the weapon which would have sent shrapnel flying if he hadn’t intervened.

This is known as a “cook-off.” When the weapon gets hot enough from sustained fire that the gunpowder inside the round will ignite and explode.

“As soon as I looked in the receiver of the machine gun and I saw what was going on, it immediately snapped that I had to do something,” said Fiske. “So at that point I pulled my two guys out of there and we did what we needed to.”

Fiske sprinted toward the Airman and tossed a nearby sandbag over the weapon, which exploded seconds later. The sandbag absorbed the shrapnel and burning powder from the explosion, preventing any injuries.

“Had my guys just been there alone while they were clearing out this stoppage that turned into a malfunction, they probably would have gotten shrapnel in their faces at least,” said Fiske. “They might have gone blind.”

The same day, Turner saved an Airman from falling nearly 30 feet and into the line of fire. The Airman was changing out barrels on the weapon, but slipped on the casings littering the ground around her from spent rounds.

“Being a defender, you are trained to react quickly to things,” said Turner. “When I noticed her in the danger zone I just reacted. I didn’t think about it until it was all over.”

Racing to the Airman and into the line of fire, Turner dove for the Airman, grabed her ankle and pulled her to safety.

“I think the discipline of being a defender you just learn to put others first,” explained Turner. “If the weapon next to her hadn’t noticed that she was in that firing zone, because she was past the end of the barrels and past where the rounds were going, there is a chance that she could have been injured by one of the rounds or she could have been injured by the fall.

 “I’m just glad none of that happened,” said Turner.

Master Sgt. Ron Metherell, the noncommisioned officer in charge of CATM explained that the shop has been rebuilt from the ground up over the last few years. His team is now made up of volunteers that have gone through a rigorous interview and selection process to ensure that they can deliver high quality training while adhering to strict safety standards.

“Good job to both, they did what they were supposed to do,” said Metherell. “Obviously any time anybody gets certified to conduct duties, especially as an instructor, there is a vetting process and a certification process. It just confirmed in my mind that we have the right people in the right place. I have one hundred percent confidence in all of my instructors.”