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Master Marksmen in the light infantry. (Training Notes).

Infantrymen today continue to struggle with marksmanship, especially under combat conditions. Trends at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) continue to document that soldiers do not engage targets effectively. Until unit leaders make marksmanship a command focus instead of a biannual requirement, it will continue to be unrealistic, less cost effective, and in many cases unsafe. Consider the precious training hours and dollars spent on leadership development and unit training. All of that time and money is wasted if soldiers cannot effectively engage targets.

I recommend that all light infantry battalions designate a Master Marksman, and make him responsible for establishing and directing a comprehensive marksmanship program within the unit. The Army's mechanized infantry and armor units as well as the Marine Corps have such programs in place.

The results have been superbly trained individual marksman and gun crews. The Master Gunner programs work.

With the support of his commander, a battalion Master Marksman would improve marksmanship proficiency in the light infantry battalions. A Master Marksman would be the battalion commander's subject matter expert on all weapons organic to the battalion. That alone would provide a single point of contact for improving the unit's corporate knowledge of its organic weapons and their sighting systems. That is no small task, considering that the inventory includes night vision devices (NVDs), laser and optic, 9mm, M4, M203, M249, M240B, M24, M2 .50 caliber machinegun, and Mk 19 grenade launcher. But it is through training that the Master Marksman would really come into play as a combat multiplier. He would plan the battalion's consolidated weapons training in each training cycle and prior to the assumption of any Readiness Force mission, or deployment for war or operations other than war.

The assistant S-3 NCO would be a good candidate for this job. The light infantry battalion military table of organization and equipment (MTOE) already allows for two sergeants first class in the battalion S-3 shop, and one of them should be able to fill this role. As senior NCOs, these sergeants are experienced with all weapon systems within the battalion. Being in the 5-3 shop is ideal. They are also placed where they can draw on the knowledge represented in the Department of the Army school system as well as local small-arms schools. The Master Marksman would have direct contact with the 5-3-the most important training officer in the battalion. He would interact daily with the battalion training area and ammunition NCO to procure ranges and Class V. Moreover, the Master Marksman would become an integral part of the battalion's training and support meetings along with the battalion and company XOs.

The duties and responsibilities of a battalion Master Marksman would closely resemble those of a mechanized infantry or armor Master Gunner. He would establish the battalion training plan for all Standards in Training Commission (STRAC) qualification and small arms training. Such duties would encompass scheduling, preparing, and running the ranges. The Master Marksman would attend preliminary marksman instruction, qualifications, zero ranges, and known-distance ranges. He could offer instruction on the fundamental elements of marksmanship, shadowbox, dime-washer drills, Weaponeers, dry firing exercises, and other subjects.

As the battalion became more proficient at these tasks, the Master Marksman could transition into more advanced techniques of fire, close quarters marksmanship (CQM), close quarters battle, reflexive and quick fire, as well as the four positions for firing on a known distance range--sitting, kneeling, off-hand prone, and rapid fire. Flat 25-meter ranges would be used to teach controlled pairs, automatic fires, turning and running techniques--all a part of his duties. As the soldiers and leaders became skilled in marksmanship, the battalion Master Marksman would take marksmanship to the next level, which might include engaging targets in rooms, hallways, and stairwells. These make up a unique phase of CQM. Point-man and quick-reaction drills for patrolling should be incorporated and emphasized. Ranges for crew-served weapons should meet more than the requirements of zero and qualification, and should also include targets with depth, linear, oblique, and enfilade engagements. Traversing and elevation manipulat ion and the understanding of the traversing bar on a tripod would all be within his sphere of responsibilities. The battalion Master Marksman should establish qualifying standards in each of these tasks so that live-fire exercises would become more meaningful.

Where does the battalion Master Marksman gain the knowledge to accomplish all these requirements? He should already have these skills due to his rank and experience. Sniper School would be a tremendous asset for the pure fundamentals of marksmanship. M249 and M240B courses from the 29th Infantry at Fort Benning would be another avenue to explore. Mobile training teams (MTTs) could easily be laid on from the Special Forces community or the Army Marksmanship Unit for more advanced shooting at minimal cost to any unit.

Every issue of Infantry Magazine offers training tips and notes. Several civilian handguns magazines offer different insights on weapons training that would be beneficial to a battalion Master Marksman. An extensive library of field and technical manuals will be maintained in order to complete the plan, particularly with crew-served weapons. Additionally, the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) newsletter would also be helpful.

A battalion Master Marksman would and should use his expertise everyday. Most units operate on three cycles: Field training (combined arms live fire exercises, range training); deployment readiness force and combat training center deployments; and support (post details, schools, and leave).

In the field, the battalion Master Marksman would observe units during live-fire exercises (LFXs), make recommendations to commanders, and attend after-action reviews. The battalion Master Marksman would focus on improving the hit-to-miss ratio during LFXs and the proper deployment of crew-served weapons.

In range training, the battalion Master Marksman would oversee the battalion's consolidated weapons training. As the battalion commander's subject matter expert, he would ensure that ranges are being run to standard. He would reinforce the proper execution of all tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), in accordance with the battalion commander's intent. The battalion Master Marksman would use feedback from OICs and NCOICs to improve weapons training.

The support cycle would be the most important one for the battalion Master Marksman. Using company and platoon marksmanship training plans, he would consolidate those programs and add his own ideas. That would make him the battalion's coach, teacher, and mentor on all aspects of marksmanship. He would train the units' trainers and set the battalion up for future success.

In addition, the battalion Master Marksman could help make the marksmanship training safer, more realistic, and more cost effective in several ways. First of all, a constant focus on the use of weapons would make marksmanship training safer. Soldiers who have weapons in their hands all the time tend to be more comfortable with them. Soldiers with a solid understanding of the functions and capabilities of their weapons are more confident with them. Fully versed in the limitations and capabilities of his weapon system, a soldier is more prepared to execute safer more realistic LFXs. Coupled with a regular shooting regime, a superbly confident and safe marksman will emerge.

Engaging the enemy in combat will not be done from behind two sandbags, nor will it be from a culvert buried in ground overlooking a perfectly manicured range. This is not realistic, and our training should reflect the threat. As more of the world becomes urbanized, the distance and reaction times of our engagements will decrease. Our marksmanship training should reflect this as well. In the city or the jungle, a light infantryman's fight starts at his muzzle. He may be prone, kneeling, or standing, all in a matter of seconds. Realistic marksmanship training encompasses those scenarios. The battalion Master Marksman would enforce reality, insisting that units train for combat marksmanship--training as they fight.

A light infantryman must qualify twice a year, which requires 160 rounds of 5.56mm. At 22 cents a round, this amounts to $35.20 per man per year. If a soldier hits the target only 100 times, that is a loss of $13.20 in training funds. Multiplied by the 600-man strength of a light infantry battalion, the loss comes to $7,920.00. Taking this analogy even further, let's look at the company LFX, including breaching the wire to clear a trench and bunkers: Each rifleman starts with 210 rounds, M249 gunner with 600, and M240B gunner with 900. When it is added up, nearly 30,000 rounds will be expended. If only half of these rounds hit targets, are we truly getting the best use out of our training dollars? In the beginning, a battalion Master Marksman program may use up more ammunition, but over time a command focus on marksmanship training will save training dollars. During the Gulf War, for example, effective marksmanship in the mechanized divisions was attributed to a Master Gunner Program.

Looking at it from another angle, consider all of the training, leader development, and material costs involved in putting a soldier out on the line. We owe every one of our soldiers a fighting chance to survive in combat. If he can't hit what he's aiming at, we as leaders have failed.

Sergeant First Class Kenneth E. Wolfe is an Infantry platoon observer-controller at the Joint Readiness Training Center. He previously served 11 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment and more than two years in the 101st Airborne Division.
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Author:Wolfe, Kenneth
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2002
Previous Article:Merging technology and training: the 82d Airborne Division's master gunner program. (Training Notes).
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