Saturday, October 22, 2005

Next Generation of "Smart Weapons" a thinking Infantryman with his rifle

In Basic Training at Ft. Benning, GA my senior drill instructor told us that they were going to train the next generation of soldier, but the army wouldn’t be ready to handle the “thinking solider”. About 1/3 of our 50 man platoon had some sort of college education, many having been in ROTC, others were EMT trained one was a paramedic who use to ride in ambulances.

Our DI’s knew that if the reason for a mission was given to us, that our cooperation was almost assured, to know our part in the big picture. That was why we would ask why we were given a mission, not to question orders or authority, but to know the bigger picture so that when the time came for improvising on the plans we could do so knowing that we’d still be working towards the same end.

Peacetime armies seem to be concerned more with ceremonies then anything else. I’m going to have to go back and figure out who said it, memory says Gen. Patton and it sounds like something he would say, “No combat ready unit ever passed inspection.” We had inspections for everything. I know the reasoning for it now, but at the time I saw it as a waste of time. I know the best way to know your equipment is in good working order and that you know it is to keep it clean, but there’s a line between functional clean and polish clean. But knowing that they’re intending on finding stuff wrong, I would leave stuff for them to find and move on once they found it.

I’m very practical minded, I also concern myself more with results rather then methods. I was stuck serving under men who seemed to be more concerned with methods then results. The first of these was my first platoon sergeant who was more concerned with how I held my rifle rather then how well I could place rounds were I was aiming.

I’ll give a quick breakdown of the “dime and washer” training, a rather simple way to test and train trigger pull. Consists of sticking a section of cleaning rod down the end of the barrel and balancing a dime or washer on the rod. The person squeezing the trigger shouldn’t generate enough lateral force on the end of the barrel to cause the dime or washer to tip off.

I would very often call out my first Platoon Sergeant, saying he should lead by example whenever he’d try to belittle us ‘young pups’. So he got into his shooting stance and proceeded to show us that it was possible to go through ten continuous repetitions without the washer falling off. Mind you, each time he had to pull the charging handle on the M16 to cock it, someone would have to reset the washer.

He had some sort of beef with me for some reason, anytime he’d challenge the platoon to something like this, I was always the first one chosen to follow him. So I got down in a more advanced shooting stance, the same kind snipers use when shooting from a fixed position and proceeded to go through the same exercise. Only this time, I showed him up by not only using a dime which is more tippy then the washer, but I was able to charge the bolt and fire ten times in a row without having to remove and replace the dime after each shot.

Since this wasn’t enough to convince him that I was more skilled with the M16, he tried to raise the bar on me again. I can recall the exact day as well, 09/27/95. We were working on the “expert” qualification we needed with the M16 to start work on the Expert Infantryman’s Badge. I’d been through the firing line a few times, each time falling short of the minimum shots on target for my expert qualification by one or two shots each time.

Late in the morning we went on the firing line, he shot a 38 out of 40 rounds, I shot a 37. He got to ragging on me about an old man out scoring a “young buck” right out of basic training. I just smirked and put myself into the next rotations firing line. He watched me take up a prone shooting stance, only this time, I was shooting right handed instead of the left handed I had been all morning. South paw shooting is something I’ve always taught myself, and got proficient enough at it that most people thought I was left handed instead of right.

When they brought back the targets, I had a perfect 40 out of 40, and the qualifying NCO had to look closely at my groupings since all he could see was a one hole pattern in the head instead of center mass what the army teaches.

I never did get around to naming my weapons, but I would train with them to the point that they would become an extension of my body. It would take a short while to readjust to each new weapon I would be assigned, but the end result was the same.

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