Infantry: Stimulating Shooters

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April 7, 2010: The U.S. Army has made more changes to its marksmanship program. Now, troops must go through a firing range that involves taking cover, rapid reloading, and hitting difficult to see targets. Troops wear full battle gear, and are graded on speed, as well as accuracy. Since September 11, 2001, soldiers have been firing their rifles a lot more each year, and in more imaginative training situations. In the last decade, army trainees have gone from firing 300 rounds in basic, to 500 (for non-infantry) and 730 (infantry). There's also been a big increase in the number of rounds fired by everyone each year for training.

As has happened several times in the past century, combat experience has caused rifle training to get more realistic. It works like this. In peacetime, there's a tendency for marksmanship training to become rather sterile, with troops graded on their ability to hit obvious targets (often the traditional bull's-eye) at specific distances. When a war comes along, and a lot of people realize that you don't shoot at obvious targets, at known distances, in combat, the rifle training and testing tends to change. It becomes more realistic.

The U.S. Marine Corps has also added more of the very realistic firing situations. But the marines still put lots of emphasis on basic shooting skills. This is the old "known distance" firing. But this is in support of the "combat firing", and performance there counts a lot more towards your qualification score. If you cannot demonstrate a certain degree of accuracy firing a rifle, at annual "qualifications," you can no longer be a marine.

The army and marines have long had many a similar marksmanship programs, with the marines often taking the lead in practicality and inventiveness. But over the last eight years, the army has been forced to be more competitive in marksmanship training. It's a matter of life and death, because most of the fighting has been done by soldiers. Even the navy and air force, where only troops in jobs that required the use of small arms used to get a lot of weapons training, are now giving everyone a taste. This is especially true of the sailors and airmen who volunteer to spend a year helping the army out in Iraq or Afghanistan.

 


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