For Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures Thursday, we are going to be discussing something that is basic but needs standardizing for every time we go to the range: The Safety Brief.
Every day at the Enduring Range, a safety brief is given to the Paratroopers in attendance for Zero and Qualification. They receive the same safety brief covering the same topics every time: Orientation to the range, the four rules of firearms safety, ‘what is the primary safety of any weapon?’ and the course of fire.
Orientation to the range is the Range Safety Officer or Officer In Charge physically pointing out the left and right limits of the range to every person coming on the range. This is done so as to ensure that the Paratroopers know what their limits are, along with the injunction that all their rounds must go between these limits.
The four rules of firearms safety are discussed next. They are: Treat every weapon as if it is loaded, Never point your weapon at anything you do not intend to destroy, Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until on target and prepared to engage, and know your target; know what is in front of, around, and behind it. If Paratroopers practice these four rules, they will never have a negligent discharge (accidental discharges only happening when the weapon is at fault).
The next thing discussed is the question ‘what is the primary safety on any weapon?’ The correct response is, they are. This reinforces in the Paratrooper the mindset that they are responsible for every round fired through that weapon.
Then the course of fire is discussed in detail so that the Paratrooper has a firm understanding of what tasks they are performing at the range.
This is done the exact same way, every time, so as to reinforce what safe weapons handling looks like. Just like Pre-jump, which all Paratroopers are familiar with, is done, so is this. This safety brief is done every single time, regardless of the target audience, to ensure that they understand what is expected of them.
It seems like a simple enough thing, but the safe handling of weapons only comes with an ingrained understanding of their capabilities. Movies have created the cliché ‘this is my safety,’ but to a certain extent, it is true. A weapon can be placed in Red direct status, placed on the ground and lay there for years, and nothing will happen except it will rust. It is only when a person picks up that weapon and interacts with it, does the potential for harm come up.
All Officers and NCO’s need to reinforce this message with Paratroopers; they need to be direct about it, not because they are trying ‘hurt the soldier’s feelings,’ or to ‘bully’ the soldier, but because when mishandled, weapons can kill. Saying something in a direct manner may hurt the soldier’s feelings, but it will ensure that they learn the lesson, and not hurt or kill anyone in the process.