We will discuss dry-fire. Where do we start at to build a solid foundation for our shot process? What References do we use? TC 3-22.9 dated May of 2016 has an excellent section discussing dry-fire drills in Appendix D.
These Drills are built around the following Principles: Mindset, Efficiency, Individual Tactics, and Flexibility. We will discuss each one of these separately.
Mindset is the Paratrooper’s ability to perform the functional tasks of operating the weapon under stress. TC 3-22.9 states that “continuous combat is stressful…The Soldier’s ability to function under stress is the key to winning battles, since, without the Soldier, weapons and tactics are useless… Maintaining a tactical mindset involves understanding one’s level of awareness and transitioning between the levels of awareness as the situation requires
escalation or de-escalation.” In other words, Mindset is what will make or break your focus on your environment.
Efficiency in reference to these drills is the Paratrooper being able to use the minimal amount of time and resources to achieve their desired outcome with their weapon. Once efficiency has been achieved in their drills, Paratroopers will be able to focus on the overall tactical picture while still being able to produce repeatable results with their weapon.
Individual Tactics are those things the Paratrooper does to maximize their chances of survival and victory in a small-arms, direct fire battle. Examples of this include the Paratroopers’ choice of cover and standoff from the threat.
Flexibility is the last thing. The TC itself states that “multiple techniques can be used to achieve the same goal. In fact, there is no singular “one size fits all” solution to rifle fire; different types of enemies and scenarios require the use of different techniques.” TC 3-22.9 gives a solid list of techniques for accomplishing tasks of employing the weapon. If the NCO feels that another technique meets the needs of the Paratrooper, they must verify that it does the following: is reliable and repeatable under stress, efficient in motion, develops natural responses through repetition, and leverages overmatch capabilities.
Now that we have established what the principles are for our drills, what drills should we use? TC 3-22.9, Appendix D gives us a list of recommended drills. As you can see in the picture, these are essential tasks to use the weapon. Drills A through C are the basic functional tasks that it takes to operate a weapon, and while they may be simple, they need to be practiced to keep the Paratrooper focused on their mindset. All these drills reinforce the rules of firearms safety in the Paratrooper, reminding them that they are the primary safety of the weapon and that starts with being able to handle it in a safe manner.
Drills D and E are the basic functional tasks for handling the weapon in a combat environment. Drill D is an ‘administrative’ reload, and Drill E (Carry 5/3) takes the Paratrooper through the five methods of carrying the weapon. These bridge the gap into drills that are more focused on having the Paratrooper adapt to their environment, getting them to focus on their surroundings and how to best use it to their advantage in the employment of their weapon.
Drills F through J are ‘combat focused’ drills. These are the drills the Paratrooper needs to build towards. However, they do not need to be done exclusively. All the drills are important and serve a purpose in building the mindset of the Paratrooper.
The Paratrooper needs to be focusing on where their natural point of aim is and minimizing their wobble zone as they fight down and up through the positions. These drills should not be done for time initially, as the Paratrooper needs to be able to self-assess their positions.
Drill K is another ‘administrative’ drill, but important. The Paratrooper needs the instilled habit of making their weapon safe and clear, both to an instructor and for their own situational awareness. It, like the rest of these drills, should be practiced regularly.
Now that we have established what the drills are we should be focusing on, how often should we do them? As I mentioned last week, at least once a week, the weapon should be being pulled out and a series of these drills be gone through. Which ones will depend on the individual Paratrooper; initially, all of these drills will need to be done with them to establish a baseline of proficiency.
As the Paratrooper progresses in weapons mastery, they can start to focus on specific problem areas they have in individual drills. Examples include drawing and indexing an M4 magazine for drill I, or focusing on refining their natural points of aim in the positions in drill F. Becoming more self-aware of what they are doing during dry-fire, will make these tasks more efficient, and reinforce the mindset of confidence in the handling of their weapons system we want in the Paratrooper.
Now that we have discussed the doctrinal basis for our drills, next we will discuss how to take these drills and implement them in our training calendar effectively.