FORT KNOX Ky. – Cadets of 3rd Regiment, Advanced Camp, focus on mastering their skills with the M4 rifle at the group and zero portion of marksmanship at Fort Knox, Ky., June 17, 2023. Cadets at this stage learn how to zero their weapon, meaning to align their sight picture with the target in front of them.

Cadets of 3rd Regiment, Advanced Camp, line up in the prone position as they prepare to shoot targets at Fort Knox, Ky., June 17, 2023. Cadets practice on these targets until they are comfortable enough to qualify with marksmanship the next day. | Photo by Keaton Silver, University of Mississippi, CST Public Affairs Office

“First time I got to shoot was when I joined ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] and when I started showing up to the Ranger Challenge practices,” Cadet Connor Houghton of Lehigh University said. “The first time I ever shot I was definitely nervous, but just let some rounds fly downrange, and you’ll get the hang of it.”.

Houghton did not grow up learning how to shoot, but thanks his school’s ROTC program and joining their prestigious club, known as Ranger Challenge, the two prepared him for this portion of camp.

“Our school got to go to Sandhurst this year, so we got a lot of hands-on time with weapons,” Houghton said. “I’m just happy to be out here and have the M4 back in my hand.”

Sandhurst is an international military skills competition that only the best Ranger Challenge teams in the country have the honor of going to. Every year, all ROTC programs with Ranger Challenge teams compete in a series of challenges to hopefully make it to the Sandhurst competition. Cadets of Lehigh University’s Ranger Challenge program, including Cadet Houghton, had many opportunities to familiarize themselves with the weapons they will eventually use during Advanced Camp.

A Cadet from 3rd Regiment, Advanced Camp, aims his rifle at targets at Fort Knox, Ky., June 17, 2023. Cadets spend the week on marksmanship, and the group and zero portion is the last related event before qualification. | Photo by Keaton Silver, University of Mississippi, CST Public Affairs Office

Although some Cadets may come to camp with an extra boost working with the M4 rifle, the Cadre provides Cadets with an entire week of learning how to qualify. Cadet Isaiah Horton from the University of Arizona says having that opportunity to zero and familiarize himself with the rifle before getting tested has been a good and beneficial experience.

Zeroing is an important step in understanding the M4 rifle because it develops better habits of accuracy.

“This experience has made me feel like I’m doing actual Army stuff, like I’m actually doing training that’s going to help me out in the future,” Horton said. “Every Soldier is an infantryman at heart, so this shows me I’m here to prove myself.”

Today was the first day of Advanced Camp where Cadets were given live rounds to use. Cadets only spend today to zero their weapons and had lessons on every other basic function beforehand. With the guidance provided, Cadets will train for qualification tomorrow.

About the Author: Keaton Silver
Keaton Silver
Keaton Silver is a student at The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) majoring in Integrated Marketing & Communications in the school of Journalism and New Media. Silver is originally from San Clemente, California, but now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. Silver also happens to be an Army ROTC cadet at Ole Miss., and plans to focus on photojournalism before attending Advanced Camp the second half of the summer.