By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
Long gone are the days when it was just men lined up to practice their skills at the local shooting range. More and more women are being seen at shooting ranges and participating in gun safety classes and in concealed carry or CCW certification classes nationwide.
T-L Photo/ KIM LOCCISANO
Observing shooters on the range at START in Mingo Junction are, from left, retired U.S. Navy SEAL Frank Hoagland, founder and owner of START, and CCW Instructor Jamie Bear. Standing on the firing line are START Primary Security Engineer Dinero Ciardelli, recently retired as a Platoon Sgt. E-5 with the USMC Combat Logistics Batallion 3 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as well as serving two tours with USMC 1st Intelligence Battilion in Fallujah, Iraq; Giovanna Loccisano, and Darla Hoagland of START.
How does changing reality settle with the various retired military professionals and civilian certified instructors who make up the team at the Martins Ferry range known simply as START.
Literally to a man, the professional staff sees female students as rewarding to teach for several reasons including their listening skills, willingness to follow specific directions and to accept information from these professional educators rather than students who arrive with well-established bad habits that have to be identified and eliminated before a student can move forward utilizing newly acquired skills taught during classroom and on the range sessions.
This is genuine and high praise from a group of retired military personnel with an exceptional depth of knowledge and first-hand teaching experiences - experiences that have spanned the globe and began in the early years of the Vietnam War, blanketing the decades from then up to today's efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Retired U.S. Navy SEAL Frank Hoagland, founder and owner of START, sets the standard for professionalism at his facility and insists on a teacher to student ratio for basic level classes at a minimum of one instructor for three students.
As the intensity of training courses increases, more and more of the teaching staff get involved in support of the experience and make sure safety is always paramount, according to Hoagland, noting START's Tactical Training House offers close quarter scenarios for participants - but only with a greater number of staff members working on coordinating the experience to creating an intense environment for students seldom found available to civilians.
Often when the courses intensify in challenges, Hoagland will transition students into gear that will allow the safe use of simulation, what can most easily be described as paint ball technology.
When learning new skills, or even adding to existing ones, experts in just about any field recommend making sure your knowledge of the basic skill set needed to be successful in the venture are solidly in place.
Without a solid foundation of basic knowledge, everything added above that point is put unnecessarily at risk.
Hoagland recommends potential students ask questions of the staff at any range that might be being considered as a place they want to register for instruction.
"Ask around for the reaction of other people to the classes they have taken in a particular place. If it does not feel right for some reason, I suggest moving on to someone or somewhere else for instruction or range access," offered Hoagland.
"Ask to sit in and watch a class being conducted before you make up your mind where you want to go for a CCW certification course or any firearms instruction or special skills experience," suggested CCW instructor Jamie Bear. "If someone does not want to take the time to talk to a potential student before a commitment is made, then it is not a place you want to be."
Do they recommend couples take a class together? If couples are in a class together once on the range, it is not unusual for them to be put in different groups for that part of the instructional experience.
The law requires the Ohio Attorney General to craft reciprocity agreements with other states to allow Ohioans with Ohio permits to carry weapons in those jurisdictions and for those states' citizens to carry weapons in Ohio. These agreements require an analysis of those other laws to ensure they meet the requirements of Ohio's concealed handgun law (ORC 109.69) and vice versa.
Currently, Ohio has reciprocity agreements with the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The reality is we live in an often dangerous and violent world, and women are increasingly deciding it is time to focus on improving their personal safety skill set, knowledge base and personal habits.
But more often than not, women who have not been raised around firearms may find they have not gotten the proper training they need in order to be able to respond better if a bad situation develops, offered retired Green Beret Major Bill Carpenter of START, a Vietnam Veteran. "Honestly, some of the best students in the classroom and on the range have been women who come into these classes with very little or no experience with shooting or being around firearms."
Vietnam Veteran and four-time Bronze Star recipient Larry Thornton oversees much of the coordination of START's CCW class schedule and programs and has been teaching CCW classes for 10 years. He is currently registering students for a CCW class on July 21.
In an effort to make access easier for local residents wanting to expand their understanding of handling firearms or who share a home with someone who does enjoy guns, any person who registers and brings with them three others to a CCW class will enjoy their access to the course free of charge.
"This area has been hit hard, and this is something we can make happen," said Thornton.
Additionally, to help make firearms safety instruction available to some of those who seem to be at the front of some of our nation's greatest tragedies, START offers CCW instruction to full-time teachers free of charge, said Thornton.
"Start at the beginning with good instruction, and make a commitment to practice what you learn in class and on the range," said Hoagland. "If you start at the beginning and have a quality educational experience, you will be able to keep going forward learning new skills and improving the quality of the basic skills learned during CCW classes."
For more information, contact Thornton at 740-275-8405 or Bear at 740-359-4718.