Sharpshooting

08/13/2019  |  Stories and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M Litchfield 108th Training Command PAO
The Griffon
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If you were asked what the fundamentals of Basic Rifle Marksmanship are what would you say? If the answer is “Steady position, aim, breath control, trigger squeeze,” it’s time to retrain.

“Army Doctrine changed in 2016,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Thornton, C Co, 1-29 INF, Ft. Benning, Ga., a Mobile Training Team instructor for the Marksmanship Master Training Course (MMTC). “We teach all rifle and pistol marksmanship from current doctrine, while most are still teaching from the outdated field manual and not the new training circular.​

With the old fundamentals, Soldiers were taught that left and right errors were trigger squeeze, while up and down errors were breathing. What they weren’t taught was the “why” the errors occurred and there was no idea how to analyze what they were doing and how to fix it.

The new doctrine uses the acronym SACM for the shot process. Stability, aiming, control, and movement expand the fundamentals and allow more finite control over your performance.

“While breathing and trigger squeeze are still in there, it’s not like an end all be all thing, they just fall under the control section,” said Thornton.

Prone supported and unsupported are a way of the past as the new doctrine takes Soldiers out of the “administration” of rifle marksmanship and into combat preparedness.

According to Thornton, the new doctrine directs four firing position, starting in the standing with your first engagement as standard, unsupported rounds downrange and then you “fight down” to ground. You go to prone, fire the next nine rounds from the prone unsupported, then work through a “fight up” process where you gain stability as you go up and the targets become increasingly difficult. Prone supported, kneeling supported and standing supported. Targetry is totally different, with multiple target engagements including the identification of targets which are engaged based on threat analysis.

Once the timer starts you are forced to change magazines and change positions as your going through the qualification.

“If you don’t rehearse you won’t be fast enough because it requires you to actually change them from your kit, you can’t have them staged on the barrier,” explained Thornton. “With the new Army qual you can’t train the old way and pass the new way.”

Staff Sgt. Justin McGarvey, Drill Sergeant with the 4-39 Infantry Regiment, 165th Infantry Brigade, Fort Jackson, was selected to attend the MMTC and will become the subject matter expert in his unit. Although he was prepared to attend the course and become more proficient with his weapon, McGarvey was surprised by the emphasis on instruction.

“I expected to be graded on a lot more shooting events but they really focused the course on more instructing,” McGarvey said. “They were instructing us how to shoot, giving us different ideas on how to run ranges, what to do to make Soldiers better shooter.”

Although unexpected, the shift in focus proved beneficial for the Drill Sergeant.

“It’s good,” he said. “You don’t just want one outstanding shooter in the unit, you want somebody who can reach and touch a lot of Soldiers and make them better shooters. The Master Marksman Trainer can reach out to a team leader, a squad leader and teach them so they can teach their squad and it’s a domino effect. Everyone gets a lot better training.”

Sgt. 1st Class Bradford Griffith, a Drill Sergeant with the 98th Training Division (IET), 108th Training Command, was also impressed with the amount of emphasis on instruction.

“I’m on the Army Reserve service pistol team and we run [training] for units that are deploying and a lot of the guys who are on the competitive marksmanship program for the Reserve Command helped write this curriculum. I’ve been around a lot of guys who are a lot smarter than me on all of this and I’ve benefited tremendously from their knowledge over the past two years and now just kind of ... learning how to refine the delivery, the way that the Army wants it done instead of the way Sgt. 1st Class Griffith thinks it should be.”

Griffith also has a vested interest in making sure he takes away everything he can from this training. As one of the few Reserve Soldiers who has gone through this course, and with his position as a Drill Sergeant and trainer, he knows how critical the dissemination of what he has learned is to the rest of his peers.

“I’m really looking forward to integrating the MMT as an additional duty and at the G-3 level working to get a few more slots for the school and try to get them out at least one per battalion and then figure out how we can get those guys out on the road to make sure our Drill Sergeants are speaking the same language as the active component is because as of right now, we are not,” explained Griffith.

In the new MTTC the training team is committed to ensuring that Soldiers know the capabilities of their weapons.

“With the previous known distance target at 300 meters, most Soldiers have never fired their weapon further but this class corrects that,” explained Thornton.

Using what the instructors term “overmatch” the students push themselves and their weapons to engage the enemy before the is able to engage.

“If they (the enemy) with their AK can only engage at 300 meters and we can push out to 600 with our standard M4...” began Thornton. “If I can engage a guy at 600 meters and he can’t dream of hitting me with his weapon system at 600 meters then I’ve created a buffer where I can get you but you can’t get me. It increases lethality because we can engage you farther, and then also the safety of our own personnel. We are hitting you before you are hitting us so we live, you don’t,” he concluded.”

With that in mind, Instructors spend time working with Soldiers to assist them in identifying the lethal zones for short range, midrange and rifle marksmanship programs where we are trying to bring it into the various lethal zones we discuss in class (head, pelvic) Bad guys have body armor too.

“Getting hits on target is one thing, but we’re trying to increase accuracy to gain lethal hits on target. If you hit a guy in the shoulder, yeah, the target on the pop up range might go down but that guys not out of the fight,” said Thornton. “[We are] teaching them that their weapon system is capable of so much more than they’ve had to do before.”

For Griffith, the class offered another focus he wasn’t used to.

“Marksmanship for me the last few years has been more about precision pistol and competition and this is bringing it back to what it’s meant for - the combat side and being able to more effectively teach the combat aspects of marksmanship versus the gamesmanship and rangeisms,” Griffith enthused. “Pushing the gas a little bit more, pushing your limits, finding your limits and being able to work within your limits. Knowing what your limits are so you can stay within them.”

The new program of instruction takes away much of what Griffith considers “range-isms” and administrative shooting - the rules that are put in place simply to maximize safety, but have little benefit outside of a training environment.

“We incorporate ‘range-isms’ into training and the high ready is a perfect example of that, explained Griffith. “The high ready, in a lot of scenarios is much safer than the low ready but because our shoot houses are built with catwalks and red lines that you can’t have your bore over ... administrative gun handling should not be a thing in our profession.”

Griffith continued, “The way that we handle guns on the range, leaving them down and locked open, walking away from them, those kind of things? If we are truly a profession of arms then we should be able to trust Soldiers to walk downrange with their guns loaded and on safe. I know that would freak out a bunch of old school Command Sergeants Major but the reality is, especially in the peer to peer fight, there is no line to be behind. There’s no wire. Getting rid of range-isms and administrative gun handling would not only increase increase confidence while Soldiers are moving and shooting and things like that, but it’s also going to increase competence across the board as far as their gun handling skills.”

Increasing knowledge and skills was paramount in this five week course.

“We show them what right looks like so when they go back to their units they know how to run a good rifle marksmanship program,” said Thornton. “They have to be able to teach back what we taught them on how to coach somebody into the proper standing unsupported, kneeling, or prone supported, prone unsupported with the pistol.”

“The goal is for our students to be able to go back and advise commanders on how to run a proper marksmanship program, basically be the subject matter experts that a company level or preferably a battalion level commander can turn to and be like ‘this is what I need done, so we can go out and do our company or battalion level live fire exercises.’ They should be able to advise how the new doctrine works, how to train it and how to do it IAW the new integrated weapons strategy so people are doing it correctly and not just checking the block.”

It was exactly what Griffith wanted to learn in order to make him better at his job.

“The assessments, as far as coaching assessments and drills assessments, it’s the stuff that I teach every day all the time out at Task Force Marshall so it’s pretty natural, it’s just making sure that I use the prescribed verbiage. Making sure that the way I am presenting it is in line with how the Army wants it presented.”

“It’s my understanding that the new regulation goes into effect 01 October and so we have a lot of work to do real fast to be able to put Soldiers through this competently and have them be successful,” Griffith continued.

“If you have a guy who was on the trail, maybe just last year, if he shows up for a summer AT he’s not even going to be speaking the same language as these trainees today. Everything from the way we clear malfunctions and assess malfunctions to fundamentals and our whole approach. There is no more fundamentals, now there is a shot process and so if you have Drill Sergeants coming up and saying ‘remember your four fundamentals’ the trainee is not going to know what they are talking about.”

Griffith plans on showing his chain of command the difference between old doctrine and new doctrine and encouraging them to build a new training program for Soldiers.

“I’ve taken a lot away from the way they run their dry fire program,” said Griffith. “It’s very similar to what we do at Task Force Marshall with our dry fire program except this one was every day and typically ours is just sort of a familiarization thing, it is to show them how to practice.”

“You improve a lot more during dry fire than you do during live fire. Live fire is where you identify what you need to work on during dry fire. I think the Army looks at that backwards and has for a long time. So in putting the emphasis on dry fire, all we need to do is get the guns out of the arms room and we can get hundreds of clean reps. Everything from reloads to trigger presses and presentations, and getting into and out of positions.”

The new Army standard for qualification will be a good example of how much practice is needed, not only in the shot process, but in the standards themselves where scenario based, instant changes in position are required of the shooter without direction from the tower.

“Being able to take that first standing unsupported shot and then snap down to prone supported and then reloading on your own over to prone unsupported and then reloading on your own.,” explained Griffith. “All those things that Soldiers aren’t used to doing. You know they’re used to getting nice and comfy and ‘building their house’ ... it’s so unrealistic.”

While Griffith considers himself lucky to have been able to attend the program, and fully intends to put what he has learned into practice training other Drill Sergeants and units, he knows that more is needed.

“Get the program out there, it’s worth the money,” Griffith encouraged. “We need to send Soldiers through it. One per battalion is a good goal and we are way behind the active component as far as fielding Master Marksmanship trainers and it’s well worth the investment if we want to be that lethal force.”

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