We are going to address something that is common for machine guns and AT weapons to need to know; fire commands. The reference for this is FM 3-22.68 Dated July 2006.
A fire command is a command given to deliver effective fire on a target quickly and without confusion. There are six elements to a fire command: the Alert that the guns are going to fire, a cardinal direction to the target, along with an estimated range, a description of the target, the Method of fire, and the command to fire. We will discuss each of these elements separately.
The alert lets the gun teams know which guns will be engaging the threat: Gun 1, Gun 2, or both. The direction can be done one of three ways: by speaking, pointing (either with a hand, or with a laser), with tracer fire, or with reference points.
The description gives the gunners a visualization of what the target is, if they cannot see it clearly (or at all, in the case of defilade fires). The range is an estimation by the weapons squad leader. A technique that can be used is to take the laser range finders that are a part of the M320’s BII and use that for ranging targets within 800 meters. If available, a STORM can make getting ranges to the targets much easier.
The Method of fire consists of which class of fire with respect to the gun is being used, along with what rate of fire. Once that has been given, the command to open fire is given either by voice, or by a pre-arranged signal (e.g. Weapons Squad Leader’s weapon initiates fires).
All of these elements make up the initial command to fire. Subsequent fire commands do not require all of these elements. The Weapons Squad Leader uses changes in direction and elevation, or changes to the rate of fire.
These commands are the base from which the gun teams build. During training, all fire commands should be used, to get the gun teams familiar with the requirements of firing, and engaging the threats effectively. Abbreviated fire commands can be used in combat once the Paratroopers have a solid base to build from.
So to sum up, we’ve discussed fire commands, what the elements are, how many types there are, and what they provide the Gun Crew. We will continue our discussions on machine fires and control measures.