As the battlefield has evolved during the last century, so too has our soldiers’ tactics and training. Slowly. U.S. Army recruits in 1911 were schooled in the same mass maneuvering and firing tactics used by soldiers in the Revolutionary War. As WWI and WWII turned into the Korean War and the Vietnam War, those tactics quickly became worse than useless—a realization that dawned on our Armed Forces with predictable speed. The U.S. Air Force has recently decided to update their rifle qualification course. Considering the old requirements it’s a major improvement . . .
About.com’s article on USAF rifle qualification provides the basic outline of the “old” qualification course of fire. Apparently, the entire qualification course takes only 80 rounds of ammo fired at distances from 75 to 300 meters.
The course seems designed to find “marksmen” in the WWII sense of the term: airmen who can hit a stationary target from a long distance. That skill isn’t necessarily beneficial in the modern ‘close quarters’ fighting style. In fact, the USAF course of fire reads like a National Match event, with shooters firing short strings at stationary targets within a generous time frame.
The new qualification course has the same basic building blocks as the old one but greatly reduces the time allowed for each string. It also tacks on two new blocks of qualification requirements involving short range engagement, moving while shooting and night shooting. The quals emphasize multiple threat engagement, target discrimination, and fixing weapon malfunctions in a time-is-life situation. Oh, and the targets move.
“There are time constraints on all the firing positions to increase your heart rate and make you nervous,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Duerr, a 52nd SFS combat arms instructor. “At no point downrange will you be shooting at a stationary, small black target with a circle on it. This training will definitely make the individual more competent and confident in their handling of the weapon.”
The new qualification requirements will better train our USAF soldiers to fight in the modern battlefield. Unless someone invents a man portable laser system in the next decade the new system will last them a good long while.
If learning to shoot on the move and clear weapons malfunctions are required for even the “special” children of the armed forces (whose idea of combat is typically seen from 10,000 feet) it’s probably a good idea for you to learn the techniques as well. It’s a skill set that could save your life.
[Lead image (C) U.S. Air Force]