Author Topic: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem  (Read 1909 times)

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Offline daftandbarmy

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The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« on: September 15, 2018, 01:38:05 »
The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
By Kevin Wilson

Back in May 2016, the Army Times ran a piece announcing that the Army was officially looking to replace the M16 family of weapons and the 5.56mm cartridge with a weapon system that is both more reliable, and has greater range.

As the article states, they’re taking a hard look at “intermediate rounds,” or rounds with diameters between 6.5 and 7mm, that have greater range and ballistics than either the 5.56 x 45 or the 7.62 x 51, both of which are old and outdated compared to the crop of rounds that have sprung up in the last decade or so. The thinking is, with these newer rounds, you can easily match the superior stopping power of the 7.62 without sacrificing the magazine capacity afforded by the tiny 5.56 cartridge, while still giving troops better range and accuracy.

Coupled with a more reliable platform, preferably one that doesn’t jam up if you so much as think about sand getting in it, this could potentially be a game changer for the US Army.

Now, me personally, I think this is great. I’ve had a chance to play around with a couple of these intermediate calibers, and I quickly fell in love. I’m not one of those guys who despises the 5.56, because, for what it is, it’s not a bad little round. It’s got decent ballistics out to a decent range, and you can carry a lot of them. But, when you compare it to something like the 6.5 Creedmore, one of the rounds reportedly being considered as a replacement, it’s like comparing a Mazda Miata to a Lamborghini Aventador.

And hey, a new rifle would be pretty great, too. The M16 platform has been around for ages, and while its modular nature means that it’s endlessly adaptable, the direct gas impingement operating system is a right pain in the ***. Advances in firearm technology over the past half century have given us plenty of options, and it’s high time we took a look at them.

But giving soldiers a more reliable weapon with greater range is kinda pointless if we don’t address one of the Army’s most persistent and glaring faults: its marksmanship program sucks. There’s no one part of the thing we can point to as being problematic. It’s not just the BRM taught at Basic, or the qualification tables. The whole thing, from start to finish, really, really, sucks.

What’s the point of giving soldiers a shiny, new rifle if they can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the one they’ve got?

Now, before you break out the pitchforks and your Expert qualification badges, sit down and think about what I’m saying. Unless your MOS directly involves shooting things in the face, when was the last time you went to the range during the workday for something other than qualification? When was the last time you broke out the rifles for anything other than to qualify, or to clean them for inspection?

For most of you, that answer will be either the last time you deployed, or never. And that’s a huge problem.

Over the last ten-and-a-half years in the North Carolina Army National Guard, I’ve spent more time being told not to kill myself or rape people than how to shoot. I don’t have a problem with qualification myself; I can reliably shoot high sharpshooter to low expert. But I also make a point to shoot recreationally whenever I can. Not everyone has that option, and plenty of folks who do don’t take advantage of it.

For most folks, the entirety of their marksmanship training will consist of three weeks in Basic, the few days out of the year when they go qualify, and maybe a few days or even a week or two of extra training when they mobilize. And that simply isn’t enough.

Nevermind that the Army’s qualification system is stupid and outdated. Shooting static popup targets at ranges between 50-300 meters is a good start, but to rely on that as the sole measure of a soldier’s ability to engage the enemy is insane. According to the Army Times article linked up at the top, one of the driving forces behind looking for a new round is the fact that something like half of all firefights occurred at ranges greater than 300 meters. Meanwhile, your average soldier doesn’t even bother shooting at the 300 meter targets, because they know they can’t hit the damn things.

If the Army’s quest for a new sidearm is any indication, the search for a new rifle will take at least a decade, untold millions of dollars, a half-dozen Congressional inquiries and investigations, and probably a few lawsuits before they settle on the final product. Which means there’s plenty of time to teach soldiers how to shoot before the new gear ever starts filtering its way through the system.

As a starting point, come up with a comprehensive training plan that utilizes Basic Rifle Marksmanship, then build on that foundation throughout the soldier’s career. Get soldiers to the range more often. Update the qualification tables to more accurately represent the threat they’re expected to face. Enforce qualification standards like PT standards, and offer regular remedial training for folks who fail to meet those standards.

Or just carry on before and put a shiny new rifle in the hands of a kid who barely knows which end goes bang. I watched a guy from out battalion’s Forward Support Company shoot a 6 this year. That’s good enough, right?

https://havokjournal.com/culture/military/armys-marksmanship-problem/
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline Halifax Tar

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2018, 11:26:02 »
Interesting article thanks for sharing!

I have felt for a long time that we, the CAF, have relegated marksmanship to a tertiary concern.

And I have long held the belief that our marksmanship should be as important as fitness in relation to career advancement.

 
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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2018, 11:40:17 »
I'll disagree, and I think it's important to qualify a statement like that.

"Target practise is for duffers and snipers.  Field firing competitions are the real battle practise."

The quote Daft used was from a WWI general observing training.  I believe it to be true.

Marksmanship for the purpose of marksmanship is a waste of time.  In the past, I've felt we've at times put a little too much emphasis on CAFSAC-type events to the detriment of other training (acknowledging that CAFSAC has some field movement aspects to it).  I know there are a lot of sport shooters here - and its a fine hobby - but for the Army, unless a marksmanship program quickly transitions into a field firing program, its a waste of time.  Operational analysis has proven that physical fatigue and combat conditions degrade the ability of a soldier's ability to apply marksmanship principles to the point where the rifle is pretty much a close-in assault/self-defence weapon.  It's the crew-served weapons that do most of the work.

Fire away! (using the principles of marksmanship)
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2018, 11:43:29 »
To add, I agree with the thrust of the article that we don't spend as much time on the range as we should.  Good units do routine things routinely, and shooting should be a routine thing, especially for an infantry outfit.  I just think it needs to be qualified with the ideas I mentioned above.
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline standingdown

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2018, 11:51:08 »
It's hard to work on marksmanship when many can't even remember TOETs for their personal weapon or conduct them without lasing half of their cohort.


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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2018, 11:54:20 »
That's not a marksmanship issue, that's a leadership issue.  There is nothing preventing a sub-unit from pulling the rifles one day and going through drills for a few hours to bang off the rust.  It costs nothing and expends no ammo.  I've seen infantry outfits routinely do that with crew-served weapons and, incidentally, radios.
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Halifax Tar

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2018, 11:55:54 »
I'll disagree, and I think it's important to qualify a statement like that.

The quote Daft used was from a WWI general observing training.  I believe it to be true.

Marksmanship for the purpose of marksmanship is a waste of time.  In the past, I've felt we've at times put a little too much emphasis on CAFSAC-type events to the detriment of other training (acknowledging that CAFSAC has some field movement aspects to it).  I know there are a lot of sport shooters here - and its a fine hobby - but for the Army, unless a marksmanship program quickly transitions into a field firing program, its a waste of time.  Operational analysis has proven that physical fatigue and combat conditions degrade the ability of a soldier's ability to apply marksmanship principles to the point where the rifle is pretty much a close-in assault/self-defence weapon.  It's the crew-served weapons that do most of the work.

Fire away! (using the principles of marksmanship)

Why can't we have both rigid and compulsory/prerequisite fitness and marksmanship standards ?

Perhaps a combination of both for compulsary or prerequisite standards would be good.  I think this would hit all points of fitness and practical marksmanship.

Having said that the basic principals or marksmanship, comfort with the basic service rifle and side arm, and safe operation of both aforementioned weapon systems should be an absolute for any one in the armed forces, as much as fitness. 

I see them as equals; not in competition with each other.
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Offline standingdown

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2018, 12:03:42 »
That's not a marksmanship issue, that's a leadership issue.

Ultimately it all boils down to leadership. The worst examples that stick out in my mind come from a place with the highest concentration of so-called "leadership" in the CAF. Go figure.

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2018, 12:04:39 »
Why can't we have both rigid and compulsory/prerequisite fitness and marksmanship standards ?

Right now, in the Army, I believe we do.  Both the 13km Load-Bearing March (the old BFT) and the PWT are Individual Battle Task Standards.  I've never looked into it, but I would venture that failure to qualify in either could result in administrative measures for performance reasons.  If one was going to go that route, they'd have to demonstrate that the member was afforded the proper training and preparation for the event and failed regardless.

So, primary responsibility for a member to achieve a passing grade on a marksmanship test should only come after leadership has proven that they've provided the proper training to the member.

Quote
Having said that the basic principals or marksmanship, comfort with the basic service rifle and side arm, and safe operation of both aforementioned weapon systems should be an absolute for any one in the armed forces, as much as fitness.

No disagreements here.  Again, I think this is a function of leadership in a unit.  Are COs being questioned as to what their unit's annual "skill-at-arms training plan" is?  If they don't have one, or are simply saying "we'll shoot our PWT in September!" are they doing the right thing?
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Halifax Tar

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2018, 12:10:04 »
Right now, in the Army, I believe we do.  Both the 13km Load-Bearing March (the old BFT) and the PWT are Individual Battle Task Standards.  I've never looked into it, but I would venture that failure to qualify in either could result in administrative measures for performance reasons.  If one was going to go that route, they'd have to demonstrate that the member was afforded the proper training and preparation for the event and failed regardless.

So, primary responsibility for a member to achieve a passing grade on a marksmanship test should only come after leadership has proven that they've provided the proper training to the member.

No disagreements here.  Again, I think this is a function of leadership in a unit.  Are COs being questioned as to what their unit's annual "skill-at-arms training plan" is?  If they don't have one, or are simply saying "we'll shoot our PWT in September!" are they doing the right thing?

Excellent point.  In the RCN there is no repercussions for failure of PWT.  You simply get reloaded to attempt again.  And it won't hold you from employment or deployment. 

Also you raise a very valid of proven practice before test.

I see this as a leadership and procurement problem.  We need people shooting more wich means buy in and implementation from leadership and procurement of more ammunition to support increased ammo expenditure.
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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2018, 12:15:30 »
Right now, in the Army, I believe we do.  Both the 13km Load-Bearing March (the old BFT) and the PWT are Individual Battle Task Standards.  I've never looked into it, but I would venture that failure to qualify in either could result in administrative measures for performance reasons.  If one was going to go that route, they'd have to demonstrate that the member was afforded the proper training and preparation for the event and failed regardless.

So, primary responsibility for a member to achieve a passing grade on a marksmanship test should only come after leadership has proven that they've provided the proper training to the member.

I think that's the trick right there. You cannot reasonably expect people to be good-enough at marksmanship by firing the exact number of rounds it takes to complete PWT2, Night Supp and PWT3 once per year. Heck, I recently wasn't able to shoot annual refresher for 2 years in a row because I was either tasked, or the unit didn't have enough rounds for everyone to shoot. Had I have failed my PWT after that, it would have been easily grieveable if someone tried administrative measures.

Offline Colin P

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2018, 13:43:56 »
Singapore uses air operated sim rifles on a simulator range to practice. There are lots of simulators out there, many set up to use your weapon with additions to get it to register on the screen.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2018, 14:03:05 »
Canada's PWT4 shooting package is one of the best I've ever seen, anywhere, probably for any arm or service, as it relates to the effective use of your personal weapon in battle. I don't know if any other army has a similar package outside of what's available to various 'special' organizations, but I live a sheltered life these days.

It would make a great 'common standard' to work people up to. From there, you can head off and do your more specialized field firing, longer range shooting etc. Then we just rework all our ramp up shooting/ skill at arms training up to PWT 4 which (oh no!) might mean significantly reworking our PWT 1, 2 and 3 training.

AFAIK, the PWT 3 type shoot hasn't materially changed since the early 20th Century and, sadly, becomes the thing we do badly once a year because we have to. I'm pretty sure there's some good data out there to give us hint about how we can build a more modern approach to killing bad people faster, with the fewest bullets possible.

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Offline standingdown

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2018, 14:52:49 »
Going back 11 or so years, I first remember being introduced to this "Gunfighter" stuff as a reservist. We were lucky in 32 CBG to have an old hanger in Downsview converted into a sim kill house (the building was a little sketchy structurally though) and some guys qual'd UOI. The training definitely built my reflexes and confidence as a new guy and helped me integrate in the RegF shortly thereafter.

The only issue I remember was due to how the drills differed from the standard IA/stoppages. They spent all this time drilling tap, rack, go into you and then you'd be on an ex with some 21 year old MCpl who didn't show up to that trg, and they'd lose their mind and jack you. I think it got better as lots of guys returned from tour, but wouldn't be surprised it a lot of that experience has since moved on.

Edited to add: I didn't have the same issues RegF, as people were familiar with PWT4 from pre-deployment training etc and generally just had more operational experience.

« Last Edit: September 15, 2018, 15:05:22 by Spectrum »

Offline Brihard

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #14 on: September 15, 2018, 15:19:37 »
I’m an infantry NCO, a UOI, and I’m spearheading the training of the new C7 Pam in my reserve unit. Much of what was taught on ‘gunfighter’ is now incorporated as the new TOETs / fundamentals CAF wide. It was recognized that there should be one common set of drills and that they should be those validated by what we have learned over several decades of shooting people in the face. The C7 Pam now teaches workspace, more efficient stoppage drills, check drills, scan and breathe, a squared off standing position, etc. it’s pretty bloody good, and the guys at the infantry school who wrote it (WO Steve Verch’s name is attached to the PAM) really, really know their stuff. We have done it right, and in classic CAF style have implemented almost completely new handling drills on our primary personal weapon with no roll out or implementation plan, so units and schools are basically doing it live.

I have a lesson plan for the new drills drafted for anyone who needs it. Training audience is intended to be NCOs who will teach it, and the session runs about two hours. Not ideal, but it’s what I had to work with. It should be supplemented by time in the SATS and on the range.
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Offline standingdown

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #15 on: September 15, 2018, 18:18:47 »
Some good info there Brihard. Thanks for the update.

Offline ballz

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2018, 15:48:15 »
I’m an infantry NCO, a UOI, and I’m spearheading the training of the new C7 Pam in my reserve unit. Much of what was taught on ‘gunfighter’ is now incorporated as the new TOETs / fundamentals CAF wide. It was recognized that there should be one common set of drills and that they should be those validated by what we have learned over several decades of shooting people in the face. The C7 Pam now teaches workspace, more efficient stoppage drills, check drills, scan and breathe, a squared off standing position, etc. it’s pretty bloody good, and the guys at the infantry school who wrote it (WO Steve Verch’s name is attached to the PAM) really, really know their stuff. We have done it right, and in classic CAF style have implemented almost completely new handling drills on our primary personal weapon with no roll out or implementation plan, so units and schools are basically doing it live.

I have a lesson plan for the new drills drafted for anyone who needs it. Training audience is intended to be NCOs who will teach it, and the session runs about two hours. Not ideal, but it’s what I had to work with. It should be supplemented by time in the SATS and on the range.

Look forward to seeing the updates.

I can't help but think we can't think outside our "box" which is running courses / range practices / etc. We are inconsistent, and we only do immersion training. It's the army way.

I am working on something out here regarding combatives training which has been approved as begins rolling out on 1 Oct. I wanted to achieve consistency, professional instruction, aliveness*, and, as a supporting factor, a cultural shift in how we value this skill. I believe these 4 tenets could be applied to pretty much anything.

It meant putting the facility support in place. It means running training 5 times a week, 90 minutes at a time. It means outsourcing our instructors. Beginning Oct 1st, we'll be offering free Judo, Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 5 times a week on the base from 1430 - 1600. The instructors are a Judoka who had been on the Olympic squad for the UK, a CIS wrestler, and a 3rd degree BJJ black belt. The base has identified an area nearly 6000 sq feet to be repurposed into legitimate place to train, matted, with all the necessary equipment, etc. There's a lot more to it than this but the point is, we can go outside the box.

I see no reason we can't or shouldn't have similar things for other skills, particularly marksmanship. We generally consider it a SNCO task to train their soldiers in marksmanship, but most ranges I've run I was disappointed in the level of coaching provided. But then again, how many SNCOs are experts in this stuff? Most don't have UOI, and while UOI seems to have better results than most immersion training, it alone does not make you an expert. I had a Coy Clerk who competes in IPSC that could offer a lot better coaching than most of my Inf SNCOs. There are so many organizations that have experts in certain skills that would be thrilled to work with the military and teach the military. We seem to take an approach that we know better than they do or that we need to run all of this training ourselves.

*Aliveness - A concept about training which emphasizes having a live, resistant training partner. Ie. sparring. Without aliveness in training, you'll never be able to use what you are practicing against an "alive" opponent. Aliveness filters out what works from what doesn't, among other things. From an army perspective, it's what we achieve, or try to achieve, with "force on force" training. I believe it's relevant to the discussion because IPSC shooters for example, are not training for combat. So while we can learn from them and their skills, we need aliveness to filter out what is useful and what is not.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2018, 15:57:06 by ballz »
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Offline Ludoc

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2018, 19:13:56 »
I’m an infantry NCO, a UOI, and I’m spearheading the training of the new C7 Pam in my reserve unit. Much of what was taught on ‘gunfighter’ is now incorporated as the new TOETs / fundamentals CAF wide. It was recognized that there should be one common set of drills and that they should be those validated by what we have learned over several decades of shooting people in the face. The C7 Pam now teaches workspace, more efficient stoppage drills, check drills, scan and breathe, a squared off standing position, etc. it’s pretty bloody good, and the guys at the infantry school who wrote it (WO Steve Verch’s name is attached to the PAM) really, really know their stuff. We have done it right, and in classic CAF style have implemented almost completely new handling drills on our primary personal weapon with no roll out or implementation plan, so units and schools are basically doing it live.

I have a lesson plan for the new drills drafted for anyone who needs it. Training audience is intended to be NCOs who will teach it, and the session runs about two hours. Not ideal, but it’s what I had to work with. It should be supplemented by time in the SATS and on the range.

Where did you get the PAM? As far as I can see, by checking the DIN and the Infantry School's ACIMS page, the old one has not been superseded yet.

The reason there has been no fanfare may be because the PAM has been written by the experts but not yet approver by 40 different paper pushers in Ottawa.

I would like to see it, though. PM inbound.

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2018, 06:30:26 »
It's on the Army Electronic Library - it may only be approved but not official yet as it's awaiting translation.
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2018, 09:14:46 »
It's on the Army Electronic Library - it may only be approved but not official yet as it's awaiting translation.

Implementation of the new C7 handling drills were (are) effective as of 01 May 2018.  as noted earlier. The comms plan for the roll-out and implementation sucked.  There was no plan to train/convert instructors.  In my Infantry unit we leaned forward and garrisoned all the UOI and other "advanced" shooters and taught ourselves before teaching everyone else.

In my civilian work, there are a number of Army Reservists from a neigbouring Div/Bde who have no idea these changes were out there.  Again, the comms plan sucked.
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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #20 on: September 23, 2018, 10:25:05 »
Implementation of the new C7 handling drills were (are) effective as of 01 May 2018.  as noted earlier. The comms plan for the roll-out and implementation sucked.  There was no plan to train/convert instructors.  In my Infantry unit we leaned forward and garrisoned all the UOI and other "advanced" shooters and taught ourselves before teaching everyone else.

In my civilian work, there are a number of Army Reservists from a neigbouring Div/Bde who have no idea these changes were out there.  Again, the comms plan sucked.

This is so Scottish... we have to relay on a guerilla movement to upgrade our battle shooting skills.

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Re: The Army’s Marksmanship Problem
« Reply #21 on: September 23, 2018, 10:43:23 »
For the comms plan to suck, there would have to have been a comms plan.
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