A Rifleman's War: Part 2

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Page 3 of 6 September 9, 2010 smallwarsjournal.com © 2010, Small Wars Foundation



5
Ehrhart., 20

6

Ideally a magnified optic greater than 4 power and with a better reticle than exists in the Trijicon ACOG; an optic such as or similar to the Leupold 2.5-8X30mm scope with a mildot or Tactical Milling reticle is far more preferable based on our experience and testing

7

10 to 14 days with 1500 rounds per student and access to both a known distance range to 600 yards and an unknown distance range to at least 700 yards.


Presumably you see the problem - the disconnect if you will - between the reality of the war in which we are engaged and our training regimen.
I must point out that as much as we hate to have "our way" compared as similar to the old Red Army’s way of doing things, they tried to keep the enemy in Afghanistan (and Chechnya for that matter) away from them - meaning outside 300 meters - so they could pound them with supporting arms because their soldiers couldn’t shoot.
We have chosen to reduce civilian casualties by limiting supporting arms. So be it. That means we must have infantrymen who can engage to 500 meters – if not 600 meters - with their service rifles. This takes time and ammunition. The Army must also codify the Squad Designated Marksman (SDM) and regain a capability it did away with in 19605. The SDM can fill a lot of the current rifle ability void but, surprise, surprise, it takes time, ammunition, equipment6 and training7
to create an SDM.
Here is a good place to note that our doctrine on SDMs [what little there] needs to change. Currently the SDM fills the gap from 300m to 500m with snipers then picking up the range from 500 to 800m. There aren’t enough snipers so SDMs really need to be trained to fire to 700m.
Let’s do some math…
One SGLI payment is $400,000.
One M855 cartridge costs about $0.25. For sake of argument, say it takes 3,000 rounds to train a Soldier to engage targets really well from 0 to 500 yards (yards vs. meters is intentional here, most Known Distance Ranges are laid out in yards):
  1. 3,000 x $0.25 = $750 for the ammunition for 1 Soldier
  2. $400,000/$750 = 533 Soldiers trained to really effectively engage an enemy with rifles via an increasingly difficult and stressful training regimen.
That’s about a battalion’s worth of Soldiers. Does anyone not think that training 533 Soldiers to employ their rifles really well will save at least one Soldier’s life?
In the cussing and discussing that occurs around here as a result of our training experience we would break out the ammunition as follows:
  1. 1200 rounds - 0 to 100 yards (this is the range zone where the pucker factor is greatest; where the shooting skills must be instinctive, i.e. based on "muscle memory").
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    • 300 rounds - 100 to 300 yards [this is really the easy distance, little gun handling under pressure is required and little adjustment for wind and gravity are needed.
    • 1500 rounds – 300 to 600 yards (this is the range zone that requires practiced analytical ability; where the Soldier must know his Dope [data of previous engagements], range estimation, wind estimation & wind adjustments and be able to apply these factors).
Then on top of that we need to take an additional 10 to 14 days and another 1500 rounds to train the SDM. Why you ask would it take that much more time and that much more ammunition? A few reasons suffice to answer those questions:
Past 500 yards, the wind effects are so much greater that it is almost a different shooting world.
High angle fire – Eastern Afghanistan is the land of the Hindu Kush Mountains. They are tall and steep. Gravity affects trajectory very differently when bullets are fired steeply uphill or steeply downhill. Soldiers who are required to make more precise shots need to know how to alter their Dope accordingly.
Moving targets – The enemy rarely stands still. ‘Nuff said.
Night fire – If we say that the night is ours, the SDM must be able to make his shots during periods of limited visibility.
Earlier I mentioned that we usually have 1 day on the rifle range. In contrast, Modern Army Combatives is mandated at 24 hours or 3 days of training for deploying Soldiers. While I understand there is a need to train Soldiers that fighting and grappling come with the territory, the militaries of the world have been trying to get away from hand to hand combat for something like 5,500 years. And while it still happens [rarely], the infantryman does far more of his personal killing with his rifle than anything else. Moreover – and let me go out on a limb here – if we really trained Soldiers to be proficient with their rifles, there would be even fewer hand to hand engagements.
What am I saying? I am saying that the Army has its training priorities way out of alignment from reality.



We are in a rifleman’s war

. We need to realize this and train for it. If nothing I have written has struck a chord with you, do some research and study the battles of Majuba Hill and Laing’s Nek. Riflemen did all of that.
Once again - no one anticipated a counterinsurgency campaign against mountain and desert tribesmen in the Hindu Kush Mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.
But that is what we have got whether we like it or not. Trying to make the enemy fight our style of war hasn’t worked in nearly 9 years. He isn’t likely to change to what we want anytime soon. Why should he?
What he is doing is working for him

. Our own doctrine states that an insurgency that survives and grows is winning. Well, the Taliban have survived and grown. We need to face reality and adapt. Real rifle training is one basic and important way to do just that.

Page 5 of 6 September 9, 2010 smallwarsjournal.com © 2010, Small Wars Foundation

The Coalition lost 104 Soldiers in Afghanistan during June 2010. How many more before we train to the reality of this fight?



Jeffrey Wall, now a Staff Sergeant in the California Army National Guard, is a 1976 graduate of VMI, and a former infantry officer in the Marine Corps who commanded infantry and weapons platoons, a rifle company and guard forces and other companies of up to 600 Marines. He retired as an independent business man in 2001and fought his way back into the service after 9/11. Since then he has served as an ETT in Afghanistan in the Eastern Operating Zone at company through brigade levels. At the California PTAE he has trained hundreds of Soldiers in rifle and pistol marksmanship as well as machinegun gunnery. A Distinguished Pistol Shot, he has "leg points" toward distinguished with the rifle and is a qualified sniper. He is the 2010 All Army Combat Marksmanship Open Champion.

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