Students aim for results

Naval Boarding Party students fire a C8 rifle

Naval Boarding Party students take a firing position with the Colt Canada C8 rifle. The live fire was part of a training course.

The crack-crack-crack of assault rifle fire last week signified a completed bullet point on the Naval Boarding Party (NBP) course lesson plan.

A group of 20 students from Canada and abroad gathered at Heals Rifle Range in Central Saanich for live fire training.

“Live fire training is an integral part of the NBP course,” says PO1 Ian Biller, Senior Instructor for the NBP Cell. “It’s just a small part of the overall curriculum, but it’s a vital and important one.”

The eight-day range portion of the NBP course gives students a chance to get acquainted with the standard issue weapons of a Royal Canadian Naval boarding party: the Sig Saur 9mm pistol, the Colt Canada C8 rifle, the Remington 870 shotgun, and the MP5 submachine gun.

“We teach them how to operate, care for, clean, and maintain those weapons,” says PO1 Biller. “By the end of the course we hope they’ll have a firm handle on what those weapons do, need, and mean.”

Instead of the human shaped target made famous by Hollywood action films and TV cop dramas, students fire at a series of targets, starting with three inch circles to master the fundamentals, and eventually transitioning to human size silhouettes for faster, more realistic shooting skills.

“We find when students start off shooting at human size targets they have a tendency to forget about accuracy,” says PO1 Biller. “This way we can call out certain numbers on the target and the students focus on being as careful and accurate as possible.”

Live fire training is but a small part of the NBP course’s overall curriculum. Students are also taught the legal process behind boarding a vessel, as well as the rules of engagement, the breadth of a boarding party’s jurisdiction at sea, close quarter battle, and shipping container searches.

“They’re given a wide breadth of knowledge that covers all the bases a boarding party needs covered,” says PO1 Biller. “When you’re in the delicate business of boarding vessels you need to fully understand the situation, the legality, and the possibilities. Anything less can get you and your team seriously hurt, or in huge legal trouble.”

The NBP course isn’t just for Canadians either. Military personnel from allied nations around the world come to CFB Esquimalt to train. SLt Amer Al-Khawaldeh joined the Jordanian Navy in 2005, and was sent to complete the NBP program to further his military career.

“My commander chose me to go, and I couldn’t be happier,” says SLt Al-Khawaldeh. “It’s my first time in Canada, which is a beautiful place, and I’ve learned so much since I’ve been here.”

Upon completion of the NBP course, SLt Al-Khawaldeh will take his skills back to Jordan to join a boarding party with his navy. He hopes to return to Canada and build on his boarding skills.

“If my commander is happy with my report, hopefully I’ll be able to come back and complete an advanced training course,” he says. “After that I’d love to become an instructor, and pass my skills along to my fellow sailors.”

-Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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