Shooting well continues to save the lives of our soldiers, particularly among America’s elite units. Not content to merely drill using conventional training, today’s military leaders have reached out to industry to improve performance. Simply put, military brass seek “mission enhancement.” Not surprisingly, this includes cutting-edge nueurostimulation technology.
As George Patton once told his men: “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.” That remains true today. Toward that end, today’s military has started researching unconventional methods to enhance the fighting skills and abilities of elite troops. If this can help our men concentrate and shoot better, for longer periods of time, that’s a good thing, helping our enemies die for their cause sooner.
At a conference near Washington, D.C., in February, the commander of all Navy special operations units made an unusual request to industry: Develop and demonstrate technologies that offer “cognitive enhancement” capabilities to boost his elite forces’ mental and physical performance.
“We plan on using that in mission enhancement,” Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski said. “The performance piece is really critical to the life of our operators.”
Szymanski expanded on his remarks in a brief interview later, saying he has his eye on a number of technologies, including pharmaceutical aids. But the results of one breakthrough involving the direct application of electrical stimulation to the brain have particularly caught his eye.
…Developed for elite athletes, the headset purports to work by stimulating the brain to enter a state of hyper-elasticity, allowing users to learn better and more efficiently. In physical training, he said, the technology has proven useful in developing explosive power for athletes whose sports require vertical leaps or sudden starts.
For operators, the same system could improve shooting performance, Wingeier said.
“Whatever you’re training on as far as a movement-based skill,” he said, “if you do deep practice, hard repetition, this accelerates the benefit of that.”
In a study conducted with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, ski jumpers observed a 13 percent gain in propulsion force and 11 percent gain in jump smoothness compared with a control group over four weeks of using the device, according to data promoted by Halo. As testimonials note, marginal improvements can make a big difference for elite athletes — a statement arguably true of special operators as well.
So there you have it: our armed forces continue to explore training that gives our troops the edge over our enemies.
As for us mere mortals, we’ll have to rely on old fashioned training to improve our skills. While it might be nice to wear a set of headphones that tickle our brains to improve our skill sets, that technology probably won’t be available us before we’re eating tapioca pudding in a nursing home. Until that time comes, we will continue to use conventional training, repetition and scenario-based force-on-force training to achieve better shooting performance.