Cadets 'fired up' over historic weapons

Cadets fired several antique weapons, including the sniper rifle shown here, during the U.S. Air Force Academy History Club's annual historical weapons shoot at Jacks Valley May 2. The 10th Mountain Division Living History Group gave presentation on the unit's participation in World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ann Patton)

Cadets fired several antique weapons, including the sniper rifle shown here, during the U.S. Air Force Academy History Club's annual historical weapons shoot at Jacks Valley May 2. The 10th Mountain Division Living History Group gave presentation on the unit's participation in World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ann Patton)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Keep your powder dry. 

Cadets got a first-hand experience where that phrase came from during the History Club's Annual Historical Weapons Shoot in Jacks Valley May 2. 

The day's soggy, wet weather jammed up the black powder used in rifles and muskets from the Revolutionary and Civil War periods. 

The group of about 50 cadets fired and learned the ins and outs of more than 20 weapons from the British Brown Bess Musket used in the Revolutionary War to the American M-4 Carbine in use today. 

Cadet 4th Class Brent Maggard said he was impressed. 

"This is awesome. I get to see and touch weapons I've only seen in movies," he said. "It's not just the shooting but to get to know the weapons and have time with them." 

Also included in the day's stockpile were the pre-Revolutionary Queen Anne's pistols fired during the French and Indian War, German and Russian bolt action rifles, the American M-3 carbine from World War II, the American M-14 from the Vietnam era and the M-9 Beretta from the 1980s. 

Very early weapons fired during the shoot are reproductions. 

During breaks in the firing, cadets gained insight into life in the early days of the Army's 10th Mountain Division which trained at Fort Carson, presented by members of the 10th Mountain Division Living History Display Group. On display were weapons, period ski equipment and outerwear, shelter, rations and cooking equipment. 

"We do it to keep history alive," said member Mike Voelkelt. "Our purpose is to share what happened in World War II. It's hands-on history and unique because the 10th Mountain trained here for two years." 

Several cadets and staff dressed in period-appropriate uniforms, including Cadet 1st Class Krista Hubschmidt in uniform from the French and Indian War. 

"I always enjoy this," the meteorology major said. "My family reenacts the war at home in New York." 

Cadet 4th Class Evan McCroskey, a Tennessee native, took it all in. 

"It was great today," he said and explained he enjoyed firing the MM-240 machine gun.
"I was really excited about the Romanian sniper rifle. That was pretty cool," he said. 

Cadet 4th Class Mike O'Donnell was also enthusiastic about the day. 

"I had a blast," the Syracuse, N.Y., resident said and added although he plans to major in mechanical engineering, "History is one of my favorite classes." 

Academy museum specialist Paul Martin was among those who familiarized cadets with historical weapons. He dressed in costume from the mid-1800s and contributed a Harpers Ferry pistol, a flintlock Kentucky Rifle and an 1863 rifle musket, among other weapons, and taught cadets firing techniques. 

"It was a good learning experience on how to operate weapons in different time periods," Mr. Martin said. "Learning the limitations of weapons brought it home to them."
Dave Little with the Display Group fielded multiple questions from cadets. 

"I am really impressed with the caliber of cadets. They are good, good people," he said. "There are some great kids coming into the service." 

Academy history instructor Mike McDermott was impressed with the organization of the cadet-run event as well. 

"It's an amazing thing. The leadership role cadets are taking is superb." 

All the weapons at the event came from private collections, a fact not wasted on some cadets who expressed interest in starting their own collections.