Members of the U.S. Army Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program discuss their combat experiences and how competition shooting helps with readiness.
A discussion on military marksmanship training with LTC David Liwanag (ret.), Special Forces officer and commander, commander of the Army Marksmanship Unit, USA Shooting Olympic Shooting Team board member.
“Too Many Soldiers Can’t Shoot”
Army Times, 03/21/16
Words of wisdom from Helmut Hein
To all USAR Shooting Team members today and in the past, to all the members of SATT and the SARG, to all those others at the original RTCs, and all of those in other units that understood and understand – THANK YOU.
21 years ago USARC stood up the SATT. Based on MG Max Baratz (CAR) guidance and with his influence at DA I was given the task to be the project officer on building the SATT and its Program Manager during the follow on years. Prior to the SATT the ALL-USAR Shooting Team (ARST) fielded Mobile Marksmanship Training Teams in an attempt to improve unit marksmanship instructors. The SATT was the direct off-shoot from these MMTTs and was modeled more like the USMC Weapons Training Bn and the NGMTU than it was the AMU, but all provided some example for the SATTs’s organization and mission. Initially SATT was disapproved by DA, but some direct coordination made by MG Baratz resulted in a reversal of that decision however DA required us to remove from the SATT’s mission statement the support of the ARST – since the AMU was missioned to do that at that time.
In Sep 95, the provisional command called SATT, with mega assistance from the ARST, and other individual professionals, conducted the very first Army Reserve Skill at Arms Challenge (SAAC) at Ft. Benning, GA. Those of you who remember, know this was designed to instruct unit marksmanship trainers/instructors using a competitive venue. Rifles and pistols were the main focus. Instructor training, how to prepare for the training, ordering ammo, ranges, etc were all included in this 2 week challenge. MG Gunderman, USARC DCG, spent most of a day with us on the ranges, talking to the soldiers we were training and observing all the activities. To say he was impressed by the SATT+ARST and the enthusiasm of the soldiers we were training would be an understatement. Unfortunately, MG Gunderson retired after only one year. I won’t get into the various “battles” fought at the USARC level, we won some we lost some.
Well, here it is, some 21 years after the idea of the SATT started turning into reality, and it appears that the AC and Infantry School has had pretty much the same great idea. Pick up a copy of the 03/21/16 Army Times and read the article that provided this issue’s headline. There are some things missing from where we eventually got to, but the base mission is the same – train unit level marksmanship trainers/instructors. They include STRAC requuests, running ranges, and all of those nasty little things that keep so many from conducting good training. I don’t think the article addresses everything, but it sure looks a lot like a SAAC, except longer. I don’t know if they have a complete grasp yet of how the Army encourages failure (e.g., military academies and ROTC have little to no emphasis on marksmanship training, the failure to employ squad level live simulators for “everyday” shot grouping in basic training as well as in units – these could be rifled air rifles, lasers, or any other simulator that provides immediate feedback for shot placement/grouping).
There is a lot that we were the lead in (like bringing the M-16 and equivalent into the national match class of rifle) that few know about because I couldn’t get you the funds to really carry the projects to their ultimate conclusion before someone else picked up the same idea. Anyway, THANKS again to all of you. I take great pride in having been associated with you and that I had the opportunity of supporting you.
Comment from MSG Norm Anderson
What I have been trying to do (from the ground level) is to unite the 3 branches of the Army in it’s instruction and teachings by rotating USAR, NG, and AC instructors through whatever schoolhouse is created (as of now NGB has only DA1059 awarding small arms master gunner school) and therefore all branches recognize the 1059. Unfortunately, I will be retired before I see it happen.
I recently had an anniversary day. I spent it training American Soldiers to shoot better. It’s been a long time, and come at a personal cost. I’m here, at 46, in a bunk, while my kids are elsewhere. Because if I don’t, who will? There aren’t many that can do what I do. Most of them are far away. All of us are old. All of us know that this war has not seen its darkest days. We can feel the evil, slithering under our feet, in the shadows, whispered on the wind, we watch lives go on living blissfully unaware of the borrowed time they are spending.
My guys and I trained a lot of people; over 10,000 of them, to shoot really well, some got special attention.
4 of them never returned home.
Among the others, some set records, or did amazing acts of bravery under fire – sometimes in the face of piss poor odds and with a bleak prognosis: they are my greatest satisfaction.
Imagine a handful – less than 10 isolated Americans, beyond the reach of supporting arms, alone in a vast wilderness, outnumbered 5 to 1. They could hear the enemy, excited over the radio, believing that at last they would kill, maybe even capture a cut off group of Americans.
Yet these shooters emerged without a scratch, killing at least 50 attackers. No airplanes came to save them. They shot their way out. I don’t need anyone to tell me I did a good job. Those men are alive today living good lives because they could shoot, remarkably – the impacts were immediate and final.
They didn’t get that way by following unit IWQ training plans. Mediocre roads to half assery. No one ever does.
The thing I Know: the better the shooter the braver the Soldier. When a man knows if he can see the bad guy: it’s light out. Such a man is a fearsome thing, otherwordly, a terror, non human, something to flee. The fanatics will rush him, and die in small piles of two’s and threes.
American bad asses, “shooters,” a sprinkling of them in a larger group changes the character of the entire organization. When a unit has skilled shooters, a unit is like a beast on a leash, whose master strains at the leash, leaning back with all his weight, yet the beast drags him forward.
Let slip the leash and the dogs of war will mercilessly put down every beating heart that fails to hide. That’s the pointy tip of American foreign policy. Great shooting skill is a horrible thing to face. The attainment of that skill is easy. The hard part of attaining great shooting skill is getting the Army out of the way.
The biggest enemy is the original sin: Pride. Pride keeps more units from shooting as well as they could. Pride is why every so often the Army is outshot on the battlefield, embarrassingly so. Pride is why it will happen again to some mothers kid.
Humility is your ally. Humility enables you to see things as they are, and do what you must to overcome your challenges. Pride paralyzes you. pride makes you a spectator. pride never let’s you improve. That and general run of the mill ambivalence.
Some people are in the military for god knows what. They tolerate the Army. For them it’s something to get through or take advantage of.
The proud and the ambivalent wreak as much destruction as any successful enemy attack. If you don’t care about building the most fearsome destructive group of humans on the planet, or you don’t get excited to support that same group of humans – go do something else – otherwise, you’re as harmful as a truck bomb.
The Army exists to kill people and break things. When that day comes – and it will – the better, faster, and more efficient we are at these imperatives; the sooner we can go home and safely be with our loved ones.
For a while now there has been a lot of talk about how ineffective the 5.56 service round is. It’s all over the internet gun boards and the popular slick newsstand gun magazines. Time and time again we are all told how the 5.56 is a 200-yard gun, or if you’re using a carbine, you’re stuck with a 50-yard gun. Everyone knows this, it’s just plain common sense! The problem is, it’s not really true. A whole lot of people sound off about something they really don’t know much about and have zero experience with. This amused me for a few years, then as more and more time passed it really started to bug me to the point of aggravation. A certain type will always repeat the same inaccurate info and we all know that. The problem is that it causes those in military service to lose confidence in their service weapon and what it can do. Confidence in your tools is an important thing, if you believe in and know for a fact what your rifle can do, you shoot it better.
Most serious followers of the AR15 platform know about the MK12 rifles and have read stories about 500 to 800-yard kills and how effective it has been in the GWOT. A few are at least vaguely familiar with High Power service rifle matches. But they assume any AR15 type rifle that can be used for these ranges is by necessity some super customized and specialized weapon. Obviously there is truth in that. To shoot a winning score at Camp Perry you have to have some specialized rifle work done and use special ammo. When these accomplishments are brought up in discussion, they are shot down by the people who “know better” because they are not the same guns issued out to troops or normal civilian users for self protection. And so it goes on and on, that the AR15 is a 200-yard gun.
It is not. It will do more than most believe, and it will do it with military-issue ammo.