Basic Training, Infantry AIT, Airborne School, Ranger School — these are some of the many schools listed when people try to express to others their proficiency in tactical skills. If a potential employer reads “Ranger School,” then it is inferred that the job candidate has a high level of tactical knowledge. It’s true, to a certain degree; Ranger School teaches a lot, especially when it comes to smaller units fighting a conventional war, and SERE School teaches real skills that would apply to someone trapped behind enemy lines.

However, it’s mostly described this way because it gives people a measurable amount of success. They can say they passed this school or excelled in that school, which is an easy way to define their skill sets to others in a clear way that is easy to digest.

The truth is that real gunfighting skills, especially in the realm of urban combat, is not learned in a schoolhouse environment, nor should it be. Schools can lay a basic foundation, even for complex tasks like building explosive charges or fast-roping, but becoming an expert in these skills comes when the soldier or Marine is at their unit. Special Operations units train day after day in various training events, with varying difficulties. If they’re not deployed, they spend an ungodly amount of time practicing these skills over and over, next to the same people they’re going to be deploying with.

Navy SEALs honing their skills in 2016 | U.S. Army photo

Schools are rarely longer than a few weeks long, maybe a couple of months — and you’re usually studying more than one task in these schools. All in all, it’s simply impossible to become an expert at just about anything in just a few weeks. Even putting combat experience aside, this is why tactical gurus who refuse to actually join the military can never compete — they are like tourists, visiting the tactical realm with each pricey course or class they pull out their wallets for. You just can’t make something muscle memory to the necessary degree in that short of a time span.