They pulled up in minivans to the gun range, and unloaded their most precious cargo-their children-at the childcare area, before signing in for a day of firearms training. The wives of 3rd Special Forces Group, Ft. Bragg, were about to experience a day on the range like no other, provided by Special Forces Charitable Trust (SFCT) and sponsored by Remington Arms.
One little girl clung to her mom's leg in the daycare room. "She's still upset that her daddy left three days ago," said the young mother of four. Later, the little girl could be seen romping outside with the other children.
Sixteen wives attended this inaugural gun safety course, held at Oak Grove Technologies Training Center, adjacent to Camp Mackall, N.C.
It became obvious from the onset that the SFCT had planned and executed missions before, with several of the board members and volunteers giving their time to make the day run smoothly. The Trust catered to the women's comfort, providing designer coffee, donuts, childcare and lunch-along with professional-level instruction, ammo, range and guns. Remington Arms brought Olympic shooter and nationally renowned instructor Gabby Franco, and pro competition shooter (and former Army Marksmanship Unit member) Travis Tomasie to the event to provide top-notch instruction.
James Otto, a Country-Western singer from Nashville, joined the ladies for the day, and sang "Just Got Started Lovin' You" to them at lunchtime. The course ran for 6 hours. Some women had never shot a gun before this day, and others came with minimal experience. At the end of the day, the women had successfully completed slow- and rapid-fire drills.
First, the women spent time in the classroom, learning about the anatomy of a semi-auto. They would be shooting Para Pro Custom semi-autos in 9mm. They learned to load magazines with dummy ammo, and also became knowledgeable about the fundamentals of shooting. Franco said, "You must first become comfortable with being uncomfortable. That is the only way you will progress in the shooting sports."
"The biggest deal with women and firearms is that they want to be able to protect themselves, but they don't know where to start ... comfort comes with knowledge. You can put value on knowledge. My Olympic coaches taught me to be selfless. I want them to be the best that they can be, and you can achieve that if you give them all of you...and we did that today," added Franco.
As the temperatures and the guns warmed up, so did the wives. Their enthusiasm for learning new shooting skills rose as they gained more confidence in their gun safety and handling abilities. Loading magazines, working on magazine changes, dealing with malfunctions-all these skills started to seem less scary and more doable as the day progressed.
"I've been shooting with my husband, because it's something we can do together. He's really the best teacher, but I can tell sometimes he gets frustrated with me, and I want to make him proud. When he found out about this, he was very happy. He said, ‘You need to learn from someone other than me,'" said one wife, who chose to remain anonymous.
Another wife, Randee, explained, "I've heard women talk about how excited their husbands are that we're here and we're learning to work with our firearms. They worry a little less about us, and when they come home, this is something that we can share with our spouses."
Margo put down her gun, turned and ran back to the area where the wives stood, waiting for their turns. "I just have to talk to you," she told me. She continued, "I have had very minimal shooting experience, but after this, I feel so much more empowered and knowledgeable about what I'm doing. I know the parts of a pistol now and how to properly handle it. The confidence is soaring and my adrenaline is rushing and I just want to go back up there and shoot it."
After the course, several of the wives said they intended to find leagues and further means of instruction in the Ft. Bragg area, so they could continue their training.
"This was our inaugural gun safety course. ... The purpose was primarily to teach gun safety, but the real agenda was to support the wives of soldiers who are deployed," said Terry English, president of the SFCT. "I think they had a great day. They not only learned how to shoot, but they also made some new friends and they left here a little stronger than when they got here."
Franco and Tomasie especially liked the choice of gun. "For home defense and practice, you have less recoil and a good grip with the Para Pro Custom that the ladies shot today. You don't have to worry about whether the gun is going to pinch. The pistol really helped with that matter," said Franco.
As a souvenir of the day, Remington gifted each of the ladies with an R-51. "They're going to love it. It's going to be a smaller grip so it will fit them better, yet it's still a 9mm so it doesn't have a lot of recoil. If they choose to carry it, they are going to really like it," said Tomasie.
"Teaming up with the SFCT for today's shoot was incredibly rewarding," said Jessica Kallam, Manager of Media Relations, Remington Outdoor Company. "As the SFCT says, 'In an SF family, everyone serves.' For all of us at the Remington Outdoor Company, we're happy to give something back to these women who have given so much to all of us."