Due to the importance of dry fire, we are continuing our discussion on dry-firing. We have established what drills we need to do at a minimum according to doctrine, where to find them in TC 3-22.9, and what they are. Now we will be discussing how to get dry-fire on the training calendar.
The analogy used previously with dry-fire it is PT for weapons mastery. You cannot score a 300 on the PT test without having put in the repetitions to build the muscle needed to perform at that level. Similarly, you cannot expect Paratroopers to shoot above Marksman if they do not put in the repetitions of dry-fire before going to the range.
Saying the above is great and all, but doesn’t mean much without a plan. That plan starts with the Unit Training Program outlined in the Integrated Weapons Training Strategy TC 3-20.0 dated June 2015. Check our discussion from Tuesday for more information on how this ties in.
So now that we have an idea what our planning considerations are for dry-firing, what do we focus on and how much should we do? Just like with PT, you have to ensure that you put it on the training schedule to do dry-fire and that it becomes a habit. What does that look like? We’re going to illustrate it using the following story. You can look at the calendar in the picture above, to visualize how this goes, and if you want a copy of it, I’ve put it up on the Google drive with a link at the ‘learn more’ button at the top of the page.
For example, on Monday the 9th of January, Charlie Company, 2-505 PIR, conducts Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction in accordance with the IWTS for a range that will be taking place on the 23rd of February. This is an all-day event, with classes in the morning, and dry-fire drills A-K in the afternoon. In essence, they are conducting Tables I and III simultaneously.
If you look at the blank calendar I’ve included, on the left column are all the dry-fire drills that were mentioned last week. The small box inside the drill/date intersection gives the number of repetitions that the Subject Matter Expert thinks that drill will need to be performed. The space below that gives the Subject Matter Expert planning this training space to put any special emphasis they want on that particular drill. So for example, if the Subject Matter Expert wants everyone to do drill A (weapons check) 10 times, with a note that they need to follow the ‘big four’ rules of weapons handling, as discussed in chapter 1 of TC 3-22.9, they will put that in the appropriate blocks on the calendar.
The number of repetitions for any drill depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are trying to establish the pattern of how to handle a weapon properly, such as during a PMI, you will want a higher number. If you are in a maintenance phase and are focusing on individual specifics of your indexing a magazine in Drill I, you can focus on quality over quantity.
The Paratrooper should focus on their shot process talking themselves mentally through the act of drawing the weapon from the holster after defeating the retention, meeting at the center and pressing out. The Paratrooper should also be looking at their weapon sights as they press it out, achieving a good sight picture as they squeeze the trigger. In the end, the Paratrooper performs a self-analysis of their performance, to include ‘calling the shot’ (identifying the last place the sight picture was when the trigger dropped; usually called out in a clock direction from the POI and amount of inches).
Drills A through K should be performed as a whole when conducting an assessment of Table III. Three to ten repetitions for all these drills will help to build a solid idea of how to perform the drills correctly. There is nothing that says the Subject Matter Expert can’t do more repetitions of a certain drill with his Paratroopers if he feels they need it. The thing to pay attention to in this case is to help the Paratrooper develop familiarity with the drills and their handling of their weapon. The analogy we are using here is the Squad leader knows what areas of physical fitness his Paratroopers are weak in, and trains them accordingly. In a similar fashion, our Squad Leaders (through the Small Arms Instructors) need to be able to assess their squads’ (through the PMI) base level of proficiency in these key tasks for operating the weapon, and then move forward.
Once that initial assessment has been done, the Squad Leader develops his plan based on their Paratroopers’ needs. A Squad leader is responsible for their Squad’s performance (or lack thereof) in dry-fire drills. It is the Squad Leader’s responsibility to take the time to develop his plan that meets the needs of his squad; it is the responsibility of his chain of command to hold him to that plan and make sure that he executes it, but not to tell him how he should conduct it.
So now let’s say that the drills are complete for Monday. The squad leader now plans to conduct dry-fire drills on Wednesday as a part of the Ruck March day. The Squad Leader determines that his squad needs to work on drills A-F, I, and K. The plan is to incorporate drills D and E into the ruck march. The Squad leader determines he wants to do drills A-C, and K at weapons issue and turn in, then as needed during PT.
Doing drills while conducting this illustrates to the Paratrooper what changes they need to make for their Load Bearing Equipment (FLC, TAPs Devil Rig, Battle Belt, etc.) to be functional for magazine changes and carriage of their rucksack. It also illustrates what happens to their body as they carry a load, and teaches them safe weapons handling procedures under all conditions.
Upon returning to the company area, the Squad leader takes his squad and starts going through randomized repetitions of the drills identified that required work. The randomization keeps the Paratroopers focused on the drills, and forces them to pay attention to what they are doing to able to do the drills correctly.
Since the Paratrooper has a base level of competency, the Squad leader can now start to make the training even more interesting for the Paratrooper through the usage of a shot timer set to a certain par time (the amount of time it takes the Paratrooper to get off a shot). Options for this range from apps for the iPhone or Android, to the unit purchase of a shot timer on special order for the use of the Small Arms Instructor. Picture two illustrates a CED 7000 Shot timer that was purchased from SSSC (Post Supply Store). For those interested, the part number in the GSA Catalog is: 824-363.
The usage of the shot timer forces them to focus on time management, and it makes them realize that they have It also makes the training a little more engaging for the soldier, as they are not doing the same rote repetitions of dime and washer drills. Moreover, you can have multiple par times set up on the timer to challenge their ability to adapt rapidly. An example would be running four ten-second par times back to back as the soldier goes through all four positions involved in drill F.
In short, execution of dry-fire drills are limited only by the Squad Leader’s imagination. Drills A-K builds a Paratrooper’s competence and confidence handling their individual weapon, but they need to be scheduled weekly.