Infantry: Marines Learn How To Hunt

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March 5,2008: The U.S. Marine Corps has added hunting skills to its combat training. You'd think this would already be a standard feature of infantry training, but the need to master lots of new tech had pushed it out. However, noting that in Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy tried to remain hidden in plain sight (often among civilians), and then set up a bomb or just (more frequently) get off a few shots and run away, the marines sought methods that would make it easier to spot these irregulars, and quickly hunt them down. So the marines called in some professional hunters and quickly developed a training course that emphasized observation and deduction. That's what hunting is mostly about, spotting the prey first, and knowing where to position yourself to do that. Hunting irregular fighters turns out to be much the same. Over the last few thousand years, armies have gotten away from this hunting aspect of warfare. But the first "soldiers" were simply good hunters now going after different game.

This shift began nearly a century ago, with the appearance of the infantry squad. This was truly a 20th century development, but the original squad size fighting organization was the hunting party that was turned to wartime use. The Germans were the first to introduce the infantry squad as an independent combat unit. This happened when the Germans perfected their "Stosstruppen" (storm troopers) tactics in 1917. After that, the infantry squad was no longer an administrative unit, but became a more independent and effective combat organization in all the world's armies. This changed infantry combat dramatically, but the significance of the change was rarely noted.

But as the marines have rediscovered, a hunting party organization is only as good as its hunting skills of its members. So now marines practice looking at crowds and villages, to see if they can be the first to spot who the bad actors are.

 


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