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Training Methodology for Dry-Fire in a Unit

 

For Fossil Friday, our discussion topic is training methodology, and how it needs to change specifically about dry-fire. Our references for this discussion are TC’s 3-22.9, Change 2 dated August 2017, TC 3-22.249, dated May 2017, and TC 3-23.35, dated May 2017.

In order to build mastery in a skill, it must be done thousands of times, with conscious thought put into what is being done. Appendix D of TC’s 3-22.9, 3-22.249, and 3-23.35 outline the drills required to build the skills to make our Paratroopers lethal with individual weapons. Each drill is designed to develop confidence in the equipment and Soldier actions during training and combat operations. As they are reinforced through repetition, they become second nature to the Soldier, providing smooth, consistent employment during normal and unusual conditions.

The drills provided are designed to build the Soldier’s proficiency with the following principles:

Mindset – the Soldier’s ability to perform tasks quickly and effectively under stress.

Efficiency – ensure the drills require the least amount of movement or steps to complete correctly. Make every step count.

Individual tactics – ensure the drills are directly linked to employment in combat.

Flexibility – provide drills that are not rigid in execution. Units may alter the procedural steps depending on their equipment, configuration, or tactical need.

In other words, to build proficiency, drills need to allow the Paratrooper to believe they can utilize their weapon as efficiently as possible, supporting individual tactics, and with enough flexibility to be altered based on changing conditions (i.e., not drill and ceremony) allowing them to achieve unconscious competence. As they execute these drills and build proficiency, the Paratrooper progresses from crawl to walk, to run. The NCO needs to have a vision of what their Paratroopers should be doing for these drills, and develop a plan to achieve it.

In the ‘crawl’ phase, the Paratrooper is building the foundation for their drills. Drills are not executed for time initially, but with the focus on ensuring they are done correctly, with leader supervision. As the Paratroopers progress in the drills, a base amount of time is given to execute the drill (5-10 seconds is a good starting point, depending on the drill).  The amount of time should be at about 1-3 seconds past the average amount of time it takes the group to execute the drills. The NCO supervising this training should be the one to make that determination. The end of the ‘crawl’ phase is all Paratroopers executing the drills as per the guidance in the appropriate TC.

In the ‘walk’ phase of training dry-fire, the NCO starts adding more variables like shaving time off, making them do the tasks with gloves, making them do the drills with their protective mask on, etc. You can have them compete against their fellow Paratroopers in the squad, platoon, etc. This sense of competition makes the training engaging and makes the Paratroopers want to do it. It also makes them want to get better at the tasks associated with dry-fire. And dare I say it; it is fun.

The ‘Run’ phase of training is incorporating dry-fire into ruck marches, Physical Fitness training, and conducting the training under inclement conditions so that the Paratrooper can understand the effects of fatigue and weather play on their shot process. This should only be incorporated when the base of ‘crawl and walk’ dry-fire has been conducted, and complements, not replaces doing the ‘walk’ phase in a controlled environment. removing the variable of weather and its effect on the Paratrooper is important so that they can focus on the shot process and get good reps in.

It is said, to master a skill, you need to execute at least 10,000 repetitions of it. If that is true, which would be better for building mastery? 10,000 reps of solid dry-fire in controlled conditions? or 10,000 reps fumbling in the rain? The ‘Run’ phase should be about 30 percent of the training conducted for dry-fire. The remaining 70 percent should be under controlled conditions in the ‘walk’ phase.

What NCO’s conducting this training must do, is build a solid ‘crawl’ foundation, before moving onto the ‘walk’ and especially the ‘run.’ NCO’s also need to keep track of how long it takes the group and the number of repetitions conducted. You wouldn’t go to the gym and not keep track of the number of repetitions of bench press you did with 235 pounds. It’s the same principle for your dry-fire. Shot timer apps on the phone make it easier for the NCO to know the number of reps executed and be able to track the progress of the group as a whole. These apps also have dry-fire settings that will shave a pre-set amount of time off each number of repetitions, so you can force your soldiers out of their comfort zone and push them. Doing that will pay more dividends than simply going out in the rain with a weapon and recreating the obstacle course scene from ‘Major Payne.’

So to sum up, have a specific, measurable goal in mind for your soldiers (e.g. ‘I want my Paratroopers to be able to conduct emergency magazine changes with an average of 2 seconds for the squad’). And come up with a plan to achieve that goal.

#weaponsmastery #dothereps #dryfireisyourfriend

Raymond Miller
82nd Airborne Division Small Arms Master Gunner: primary weapons trainer, force modernization for individual weapons, and range liason for the 82nd.

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