“ War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose.”
-Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers
We are continuing our discussion on why we need to train our Paratroopers more efficiently. Last week we discussed how little space it takes on the calendar, so how do we ensure it has emphasis placed on it? It boils down to leaders of all levels and types understanding the reason why it should be a priority.
The mindset that every leader needs to have is that Weapons Mastery should be the goal of every soldier, with weapons proficiency being accepted as the minimum standard. In the 82nd Airborne Division, the commander has addressed this in DIV PAM 600-2, which has weapons mastery as a part of the ‘82nd eight.’
Regardless of Military Occupational Specialty, we are all a part of America’s Army. That means that when called upon, all of us fight and win the nation’s wars. In today’s Unified Land Operations environment, that means that everyone needs to be proficient at weapons.
The reality is, most of the insurgents we have fought in the past 15 years are not looking for a ‘fair’ fight. They are looking to do everything possible to stack the odds in their favor, even if they are planning on dying for their cause. They are not going to go after a ‘hardened’ target, but are going to pursue ‘softer’ ones. That means units that may not have placed as much emphasis on situational awareness while on patrol and practicing poor weapons discipline will be targeted.
Add into this, a soldier who is not proficient with their weapon may make mistakes in their employment. As an example, a unit is out on patrol in a city, they take fire from a crowded market. This soldier may fire back with their weapon, killing a local leader who was strongly in support of the American presence in his city by mistake.
Now, not only is this soldier going to have to deal with the consequences of their poor weapons discipline but potentially everyone in the Army might. In today’s interconnected society on social media, mistakes like this at the tactical level can have second- and third-order strategic effects on the battlefield. For example, everyone who was pro-American in that city will have their opinion influenced by the death of that leader. Every American Service member will have to deal with heightened tensions with the local populace due to this, both in that neighborhood and depending on the leader, it could be all the way across the country.
Add to that, the rapid reporting of what service members do by the press to the citizens of our country, it can turn public opinion against whatever military action is being conducted there in the first place, causing the Commander-in-Chief to reassess the employment of troops in that region. All of that, from one soldier shooting the wrong person.
Now that we have the emphasis, what is the mindset we need for our leaders, and our Paratroopers? The knowledge that they need to be accountable for every round they fire out of their weapon. They are the ballistic computer, firing platform, and sighting system for that weapon and every decision that they make as a part of that process can be brought into question later by an investigation. So if all of this is true, we need to be as proficient as possible at placing the round directly where we intended it to go. And the only way to get better at that is to practice constantly.
Our Paratroopers need to understand that the stakes are high, and they need to rise to the occasion, as they always have.