For Fossil Friday, we are going to be dispelling a very harmful myth: that of over-reliance on technology when it comes to learning. This applies to anything, but specifically we will be addressing weapons mastery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a luddite who thinks that iron sights are the only way to go. I’m merely pointing out that technology can be used as a crutch that limits your ability to grow in skill.
In the late 1990’s, Privates were given hard-copy books of field manuals when they arrived at a unit. These were rare items, and the soldier was expected to read them and know them. Today, we have the entirety of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips… but no one knows the ‘why’ behind the answer they look up on Google. If it’s not on armystudyguide.com a lot of soldiers and leaders don’t know about it.
An analogy most in the military can relate to is the Global Positioning System. This system was created to allow an individual to know where they are at on the earth’s surface. Incorporation of this technology has made us able to guide air and artillery strikes with precision. When used properly, GPS confirms the location of mounted and dismounted elements on patrol, both for when a grid is needed rapidly (e.g. MEDEVAC or call-for-fire scenario), and to confirm that the element is navigating in the correct direction (azimuth check without having to pull out a map).
The challenge with this system is, all too many people rely on it as their primary means of navigating. When the system goes down, they have no idea where they are, or more importantly, how to get where they are going. There are parallels to this analogy to any training we do, but weapons training in particular, due to its perishable nature, similar to land navigating by map and compass.
I challenge every Soldier and Leader in the Army to be a life-long learner. Since you have taken up the mantle of being a defender of this country from enemies foreign and domestic, that means every soldier, regardless of Military Occupational Specialty needs to know how to handle their weapon. I learn something new every day that towards the refinement of my craft, and making myself, the 82nd, and the Army as a whole better as a result. If you are starting off in your career in the military, you should be ‘drinking from the firehose’ and absorbing as much book knowledge and tactics, techniques and procedures from your leaders. If you are a leader, you should be paying it forward with your soldiers and ensuring that they are armed with the knowledge that makes them lethal. If you didn’t get that from your leaders when you were a private, then take the time to learn it yourself.
Robert Heinlein wrote in his seminal work ‘Starship Troopers’:
“There are no dangerous weapons, there are only dangerous men.”
And while it was written in 1959, it still is true today. The weapon in your hand is only as good as the knowledge you have on how to apply it. True knowledge only comes by working through the bad application of ‘book knowledge’ to gain experience. The weapon is a tool, nothing more. The only thing that makes it lethal is the person who wields it.