The Value of Competition

The lead Humvee was disabled immediately, so Capt. Goltry had his driver pull their vehicle perpendicular and in front of it to provide cover. Capt. Goltry spotted a shooter to his right, opened his door, and returned fire. He received two gun shot wounds to his left leg but continued fighting until the shooter was killed…
-excerpt from the article describing actions leading to the awarding of Captain Goltry’s Silver Star

For Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures Thursday, we will be discussing what kind of value competition adds to training weapons mastery.

This week, Paratroopers from the 82nd, along with soldiers from the British 3rd Division competed in a three-gun style match. The event tested their ability to shoot and engage targets both on the move, and from non-standard positions, with Rifle, Pistol, and Shotgun.

These Paratroopers were put on the clock to give them an external stressor. A shot timer was recording their times after every gunshot. This allowed for the recording of times down to the hundredth of a second.

Targets were either a modified M9 Excellence In Competition targets, or a plastic E-type silhouette targets on a mechanical lifter. The E-type targets were scored based off of registered hits causing the targets to ‘bob’ (drop down and come back up). The shotgun targets were steel clay pigeon throwers that were activated by shooting them along with stationary clay pigeons on the berm.

What this competition did, was give these Paratroopers a chance to assess their own skills. Shooting on the move, shooting while engaging various types of targets from various levels, shooting weapons canted, all of it was a good assessment of what they were strong or weak in.

The Master Gunner Cell staff used it as an opportunity to make assessments as well. We noticed trends across the force that indicated where special emphasis should be placed on building weapons mastery. Things such as magazine changes, use of cover, moving and shooting, all were evaluated and will be given to the command so that they can get a more realistic picture of what unit proficiency looks like.

The competition also allowed us to build esprit de corps and relations with one of our allies. Soldiers from the United Kingdom had the opportunity to conduct training with foreign (for them) weapons, while conducting a scenario they did not normally have the opportunity to do. From this perspective, the small arms competition was a success.

This competition also allowed for the free exchange of ideas when it came to the employment of weapons. Both Leaders and Paratroopers learned more about how to effectively engage threats with their rifle (and more importantly) pistol. Shotgun was included, however it is traditionally used by Paratroopers as a breaching tool, so shooting clay pigeons was outside the normal realm of its employment.

Competition is an excellent way to validate your units’ training plan or to identify shortfalls in it. It is in competition that we are pushed to our limits, and sometimes humbled. Through these setbacks, we identify more efficient ways of employing our weapons.

I realize that I have talked extensively here about the benefits of competition, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up a few shortfalls to it. Competition for the military is not the endstate we are achieving; it is merely a milestone along the way. Our Paratroopers need to adopt a mindset similar to the Japanese concept of Kaizen: of striving after perfection of form, but understanding they will never achieve it.

Weapons mastery is not a destination: there is always something to learn, there is always something to improve in your technique. Competition should not be done solely for the sake of competition, but to improve one’s skills as they directly relate to your wartime mission. Pursuing competition out of a ‘Ricky Bobby’ mentality (“If you’re not first, you’re last.“©) means you are creating potential training short falls due to misplaced priorities.

To sum up, competition is an excellent tool for commanders to validate and assess their training. It is not the endstate we should be shooting for, but a stop in the pursuit of kaizen; unattainable perfection.

#weaponsmastery #competition #kaizen

Today’s hero is Captain Brennan Goltry. Captain Goltry was awarded the silver star for actions taken during combat in Samarra, Iraq in February of 2007. You can read more about his story at the link below:


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