With an eye toward becoming a more combat effective force, the Army has updated its small-arms training and standards.
From hard-charging airborne infantrymen to cooks to mechanics to admin Soldiers, the new shooting standards are aimed at making every Soldier, not just a better shooter but also more tactically savvy.
Covered in the 800-page Training and Qualification-Individual Weapons manual (TC 3-20.40), the new shooting standards seek to improve the combat effectiveness and lethality of Soldiers regardless of their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). The Manual applies to all components of the Army (Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard), and covers four small-arms categories: pistols, rifles/carbines, automatic rifles, and sniper rifles.
Command Sergeant Major Robert K. Fortenberry, the senior enlisted leader at the Army’s School of Infantry, who also oversees the new marksmanship initiative, said in a press statement that “it’s exactly what we would do in a combat environment, and I think it’s just going to build a much better shooter. It was just time for a re-blue [a term used to describe the protection of steel weapons against rust]. It’s not to say that what we were doing in the past was wrong. We killed a lot of bad guys in Iraq and Afghanistan and all over the world with our current level of marksmanship training. So it’s not that the old way of firing didn’t teach you how to shoot.”
The new initiative was developed over the course of two years by the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence’s Directorate of Training and Doctrine. More than 200 marksmanship case-experts from both the military and the industry contributed to the process. “There was an opportunity to create a fundamental change in regards [sic] to marksmanship that more closely aligns with what was done and learned over the past 19 years of combat, making it to where it fits the entire Army as a collective, and makes a more proficient marksman,” added Sgt. Major Fortenberry, who stressed that the new initiative is more of an update rather than a completely novel concept.
The initiative requires every unit to test its Soldiers in drills such as speed-reloads, malfunction contingencies, accurate fire from all positions (prone, kneeling, standing) and from behind obstacles and barriers. The new initiative also encourages better target recognition and prioritization.
In addition to the extended basic training, such initiatives showcase the desire to maximize the Army’s potential. For policymakers and Army leaders understand that in the event of a conflict with a near-peer adversary, such as Russia or China, there will be no room for mediocracy. Fighting untrained or poorly trained Taliban or terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria is one thing. But a well-trained military is another.