Army Base Pauses 'Weapons Immersion Training' After Recruit Steals Unloaded Rifle, Hijacks Bus Full Of Students

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

I still remember my first day at boot camp. Granted, it was a little foggy–I got in late at night, then had to go through all the initial processing before crawling in bed for a whopping 45 minutes before starting that first day–but I remember it.

Boot camp isn’t easy. It’s not meant to be, though. I’ve compared it to brainwashing, and in a lot of ways, it is. It’s a necessary step in building what our nation needs to keep it safe and strong.

For branches like the Army and Marines, one would expect that boot camp also includes a lot of weapons training, and for good reason. However, trainees at Fort Jackson are going to get a lot less weapon handling than others.

The Army’s largest basic training post paused weapons immersion training after one trainee escaped May 6 and hijacked a school bus with an unloaded M4 carbine, officials at Fort Jackson, in South Carolina, said Thursday evening.

The pause “means simply that weapons are kept in the arms room unless they are needed for a specific training event,” such as going to the range or practicing aiming techniques, post spokesman Patrick J. Jones told Army Times. The pause applies to all personnel in basic training, he added.

Normally, soldiers in training are issued rifles, but they do not have access to ammunition until they are on a range. Army officials knew the gun was unloaded during the May 6 school bus hijacking, but they said they recognize that others did not.

Fort Jackson commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle said he has been in touch with Baron Davis, superintendent of the Richland 2 School District, where the hijacking occurred.

“We truly regret this incident and the effect it is having on our community,” Beagle said. “I have spoken with Dr. Davis to express my desire to meet with the parents of the children so I can personally share my concerns for them. I want to answer their questions and let them know we are taking actions to prevent this from happening again.”

So these troops will still be taught how to shoot and all that, but they won’t get the same degree of weapon familiarization that other troops might.

In truth, this isn’t really shocking.

What a lot of non-veterans may not realize is that military bases are great big gun-free zones. No one gets to carry a weapon unless they’re both on duty and that duty requires them to be armed. Military police? They have guns. Supply clerks? Not so much.

In a way, this policy change will bring the training command into more alignment with the rest of the Army.

On the other hand, though, this is kind of stupid.

Those who will be serving in combat arms elements of our armed forces need more familiarization with their weapons than they’d get on range days. It’s one thing to learn how to squeeze the trigger, but another to really feel comfortable with a given weapon. While this policy sounds like sense to many, especially after a recruit hijacked a school bus, I’m not so sure it is.

Oct 21, 2021 8:30 AM ET