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The Army adopted the Trainfire model around 1955. The most recent version revamped the program in the late 1970s and served as the primary approach until the new Training Circulars re-wrote doctrine starting in 2016.
Until the new TCs and qualifications for them, all changes to Army small arms standards have reduced the challenge and needed skill. Consider this video where Soldiers conducting routine qualification during Basic are advancing downrange with loaded rifles and expected to take up positions on timed pop-up targets. FM 23-8, which was doctrine when this film was made, included a four table qualification that included shooting while advancing, offhand, and other unsupported shooting. Also note the regular use of peer coaching.
Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey calls on U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers to “know what right looks like” and hold themselves and each other accountable, and focus on the fundamentals of Fieldcraft.
EVERY 0331 that goes through AMGC does high angle fire. Slow news day?
– Joe R Heft
A variety of gunnery skills are taught during USMC Advanced Machine Gunner Course but most Army personnel remain oblivious to gunnery with machine guns and are rarely competent with them beyond loading and minimal marksmanship on easy and well-defined point targets.
In fact, most Army personnel have been conducting machine gun qualification incorrectly and failing to achieve published standards. Consider this from the new small arms training manual:
Table IV-B requires gunners to practice trigger control and requires the firer to fire one five to seven round burst at each specified point target or series of targets in the area target sequences. Gunners are authorized to fire only one five to seven round burst at each paster. [Emphasis added]
The authors explicitly spell this out due to recognizing most Army personnel have failed to perform at this standard but it is NOT a new/different standard. This is not a change to doctrine or a new qualification, this is the way the qual was always supposed to be run. Simple arithmetic of the number of rounds issued during qualification, the number of rounds per burst to be fired, and the number of target areas engaged confirms this. The explicit instruction was forced in due to a large number of Army personnel that don’t math good.
Lack of skill with this equipment is, unfortunately, common.
Operation Cold Steel has been less than stellar…
Such “expertise” is rampant:
Marines practice rarely trained machine gun tactic that could take out Russian vehicles
The Marine Corps is in Bulgaria practicing high-angle fire with a 40 mm grenade launching machine gun known as the Mk-19… The tactic could be beneficial in striking down infantry troops behind walls or protection, or taking out advancing Russian armor and light-skinned vehicles.
With seamless communications and competent forward observers, high-angle Mk-19 fire could also be used to rapidly and easily walk rounds onto an enemy target, according to several machine gunners.
It’s a skill set learned at the Marine Corps’ six-week Advanced Machine Gunner Course.
The M249 is supposed to be used in either an Automatic Rifle and Light Machine Gun role. What differentiates either? For years, both qualifications were conducted in a very similar manner and many personnel failed to appreciate any difference.
An Automatic Rifle is individually issued, carried, and used while maneuvering as a part of a team. A Light (or Medium or Heavy) Machine Gun is a crew-served weapon that supports maneuvering elements in offense and defense. The same M249 can be pressed into either role but the usage differs depending on which.
I’ve found many personnel are confused by this difference and merely conduct whichever qualification is easiest.
A Proposed Fix
The following is merely an idea from one person (me) that has no official basis or status. I suggested this to personnel writing current Army small arms doctrine and they will have final say what becomes official.
Given that personnel don’t seem interested in reading and learning the difference, I’d say we should make the AR and LMG quals more distinct. The current AR qual mostly looks like a watered-down version of the LMG/MMG qual.
Grouping and Zeroing: Use the new 25-meter rifle/carbine zero target at 10 meters. Given that target’s 6 MOA “legacy” dashed circle is 4cm – same width as the 10 meter MG paster – and the 4 MOA circle and diamond is about 2.5 cm. The grid at 25 meters is 1 MOA squares, making it 2.5 MOA/0.75 mils at 10 meters. Zero standard becomes to shoot a centered three round burst inside the 4cm circle on that target from prone bipod supported.
Eliminate the 10 meter MG target and course and use the 10-meter range as a preliminary group/zero exercise, like the rifle/carbine.
Qualification: The Automatic Rifle qualification should be similar to the new four-table Modified Record Fire (Barricade) course. Phase 1 and 2 becomes Bipod Supported. Phase 3 and 4 uses a barricade and are fired kneeling and standing supported, respectively. Current Automatic Rifle transition ranges (100-400 meters) can be used as-is with the addition of a barricade and emphasizing longer shots bipod prone and closer distances from kneeling and standing, like the rifle/carbine.
Like the rifle Modified Record Fire (Barricade) course, this makes the qual similar to Drill G (Fight Up).
The Modified Record Fire (Barricade) course requires a reload while changing positions during the timed lull between tables, which (obviously) should be required to be done with magazines in the FLC/LBE/etc. I’d suggest having at least one reload for the AR course in the same manner, reloading with an ammo can, soft assault pack, etc. in a manner as how ammunition would normally be carried on person.
As a side note, we should also have the pistol qualifications require all tables start holstered and reloads done from gear on the clock. LMG/MMG qualifications should have a timed reload and a barrel change portion between tables for the same reasons.
If this sort of thing was built into qualification requirements, leadership might start to care more about it.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. —
Master Sgt. Russell Moore, combat heavy engineer, 416th Theater Engineer Command of Darien, Illinois, NCOIC USARCMP Service Conditions/Combat Team conducts a safety briefing before the Combat Pistol Excellence in Competition event at the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 10, 2018. This year’s Best Warrior Competition will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Anshu Pandeya) (Released) (Photo by Sgt. Anshu Pandeya)
Sgt. 1st Class Chris Volmer, Fox Company, 3rd Battalion, 415th Infantry Regiment, 95th Training Division of Boise, Idaho and USARCMP member demonstrates weapon handling during a safety briefing before the Combat Pistol Excellence in Competition event at the 2018 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 10, 2018. This year’s Best Warrior Competition will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Anshu Pandeya) (Released) (Photo by Sgt. Anshu Pandeya)
Noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers competing in this year’s U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition will not only have the opportunity to be the Best Warrior, but also to accrue points to earn a rare distinction in the Excellence in Competition Program.
Gen. Phillip H. Sheridan implemented the EIC program in 1884 to cultivate the Army’s tactical proficiency and lethality of force.
“It was started to improve marksmanship training techniques, improve weapon and ammunition capabilities, raise proficiency of service rifle and service pistol throughout the Army, provide an opportunity to excel through competition, and establish a basis for quality marksmanship instructions. And that’s pretty much the way it is now,” explained Roscoe Castle, EIC custodian at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Civilians and service members alike are eligible to compete, though the two populations earn separate badges. Soldiers can only earn the Distinguished Marksmanship Badge by competing in Excellence in Competition matches for rifle or pistol. Competitors must accumulate 30 points throughout three competition tiers to earn a Distinguished Badge. Soldiers earn their first 10 points in Tier 1 to receive the Bronze EIC Badge. The top 10 percent of Best Warrior competitors at the combat pistol EIC event will earn this badge.
Soldiers must earn their next 10 points in Tier 2 to receive the Silver EIC Badge, and Soldiers who earn the final 10 in Tier 3, totaling 30 points, receive the Distinguished Badge. Soldiers can also compete in intercontinental events for an international badge. To date, the Army has only awarded badges to 1,856 pistol shooters and 3,389 rifle shooters. Only 438 marksman have earned both honors, and there are just 16 awardees in the history of the competition who have all three.
“It’s a permanent-wear badge issued by the Department of Army with a set of orders that permanently replaces your marksmanship badge, in this case, for pistol,” said Master Sgt. Russell Moore, a combat-heavy engineer for the 416th Theater Engineer Command based in Darien, Illinois, and noncommissioned officer in charge of the Best Warrior pistol match.
“You don’t see them (EIC badges) very much. Everyone says, ‘You can’t be wearing that foreign device.’” Moore explained to the competitors. As one of the few Soldiers who has earned distinguished badges in both categories, Moore told the competitors to respond, “Hey, sergeant major. It’s one of the oldest devices in the United States Army.”
This year’s Army Reserve BWC will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. But even if Reserve competitors don’t advance to the Army-wide competition, they still have the special opportunity to receive the EIC Bronze Badge and the points toward earning the rare Distinguished Marksmanship Badge.
SOUM #18-004 alerted the field of an unintended discharge on an M4A1 PIP’ed (Product Improvement Program) weapons that occurred when the operator pulled the trigger with the selector switch between the SEMI and AUTO detents (outside of detent). The weapon did not fire when the operator pulled the trigger and instead fired when the selector was moved further. As a result of this incident, an on-going investigation determined that there is the potential for all carbines and rifles noted above, to behave in this way.
First, this potential mechanical problem is uncommon. The Army has converted 259,000 M4s to M4A1s in the past three years with the M4 carbine product improvement program. Out of 259,000, 881 have been found to exhibit this problem.
Second, TACOM’s updated Function Check will easily determine if your M16/M4 is one of those of the small number affected.
Updated Function Check
User Actions: Until a resolution is found, units are required to perform the following additional function check on all M16 and M4 series rifles and carbines. If the unit reported failure data IAW SOUM 18-004, then reporting action for those weapons has been satisfied.
1. Ensure weapon is clear by observing the chamber, the bolt face, and magazine well. The weapon should always be pointed in a safe direction. Do NOT perform this check with live ammunition.
2. Perform standard function check IAW WP0007.
3. Move the selector lever to the SEMI position then move the selector to a position between SEMI and AUTO (BURST for non M4A1’s) and squeeze the trigger. The hammer should drop when trigger is squeezed. If the hammer drops, repeat by slightly repositioning selector between SEMI and AUTO (or BURST). If the hammer does not drop when the trigger is squeezed, this is a failure. Record this information and continue to the next step.
4. If hammer does not drop, move the selector in either direction. If the hammer drops without squeezing the trigger, this is a failure. Record this information.
5. Gather information recorded from the additional function check and submit to TACOM Equipment Specialists.
Do NOT use SPORTS or C-SPORTS
The SOUM goes on the describe a suggested “update” to the now out-of-date Immediate Action procedure that has since been replaced in TC 3-22.9.
First problem, an Immediate Action amendment is completely unnecessary if the Function Check is passed. Confirming correct mechanical function is an administrative action conducted during Drill A – Weapon Check, not something to do while engaging targets.
Second problem, SPORTS was replaced as an overly-convoluted and less effective approach than what the new Immediate Action procedure in TC 3-22.9 directs. Taking a tangled “immediate” six-step procedure and adding yet-another step defies the entire point of immediate action.
Third problem, this low percentage mechanical problem only occurs while manipulating the selector. Immediate Action is only necessary after attempting to engage target(s), meaning the weapon was already set to discharge (obviously) and there is no need to manipulate the selector while performing it.
TC 3-22.9, page 8-10
RULES FOR CORRECTING A MALFUNCTION
Do not attempt to place the weapon on SAFE (unless otherwise noted). Most stoppages will not allow the weapon to be placed on safe because the sear has been released or the weapon is out of battery. Attempting to place the weapon on SAFE will waste time and potentially damage the weapon.