This may be a bit presumptuous of me, but our dependence on technology has made us weaker militarily, in my humble opinion. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be incorporating technology where we can to make us more effective, just that if there are more primitive methods available we should not forget them. Sure, there are areas that we cannot fluctuate in this regard such as remote aerial surveillance or electronic communications, etc. There are facets of warfighting we can exploit to make us more effective though. Many of these come down to an individual level of competence and I believe some of them are becoming a lost art form for the individuals who are not pushed to learn them.
One big example that comes to my mind is the use of iron sights in marksmanship. As a young Marine Corps recruit stumbling through MCRD and Edson Range, I had to become extremely familiar with the iron sights on my M16a2 service rifle. We trained and qualified out to 500 yards using the a2 carry handle iron sights as well as conducted combat marksmanship drills that included close range rapid fire. Now, the Marine Corps almost exclusively uses the Trijicon TA31RCO ACOG, a 4x power fiber optic powered scope that includes a bullet drop compensated reticle. The ACOG enables the shooter to compensate for distance shooting via the reticle without making any adjustments to the zero; it really is a technological marvel.
I also received training on this optic and carried one on my rifle for the majority of my service but before that I was trained to use iron sights. Should my optic ever fail me, I would have been more than comfortable using my back-up iron sights. True I would have lost an advantage but if the situation had dictated, I would have been ready. The Marine Corps (and the Army to my knowledge) now issue optics for boot camp and initial marksmanship training, many Marines have very little understanding of iron sights anymore. I’m not advocating that we reject technology but rather we retain the more primitive skill sets wherever we can. This mentality makes us more flexible and better prepared for technological shortcomings.
Another area that comes to mind is traditional land navigation versus the use of a handheld GPS. It’s rare that you meet a basically trained soldier or Marine that can effectively conduct land navigation using a map, compass and pace counter anymore. I’m fairly certain they touch on it in training still but not to the degree they should. A GPS is a great tool, I almost always carried a Garmin Foretrex 401 overseas, but a good soldier should be just as comfortable with standard land navigation as they are with a GPS; if anything, it will make them more proficient with the GPS.
There are many more examples I’m sure but my point is we cannot forget the more primitive forms of technology in lieu of the electronic/digital stuff. If we wish to be truly proficient warriors then we should be training to a fundamental standard more often than the advanced one. Just as marksmanship and weapons manipulation far outweighs run and gun nonsense in firearms training, so does the need for our more ancient skills as combatants. There’s a reason that every combat branch still teaches bayonet training. Just as a soldier may potentially run out of bullets, the batteries may drain or something may break on our equipment so we should be prepared with a fallback method.
Featured image: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Marquez A. Moreno, assigned to Police Adviser Team Delaram, returns from a patrol in Delaram, Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 26, 2013. Marines and Sailors with the team were serving as instructors and mentors for Afghan National Civil Order Police members. | By SSgt Ezekiel Kitandwe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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