Leadership: July 23, 2005

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Now the combat troops want more realistic, and dangerous, training, the brass are responding. The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have revised their combat training quite a bit since 2003, mainly in recognition of the need for non-combat troops to deal with ambushes and roadside bombs. This situation also pointed out the need for more live fire training. As a result, American consumption of small arms ammo has more than tripled in the past year. Most of that has gone for training, not actual combat. But while the combat troops have also gotten more ammo for training, those who have been in combat, and are headed back for another tour, are complaining that state side training has still not caught up with reality. This is not a new complaint, it was made as far back as World War II. What the troops want is the opportunity to fire their weapons in training the same way they will in combat. But that is avoided because it is dangerous. In combat, troops are often firing from awkward angles and positions. They are often unsure of what they are firing at, and are trying to coordinate their fire that that of other friendly troops under confusing conditions. Do that sort of thing in a training exercise and you are likely to have, er, accidents. Such friendly fire incidents are bad enough, from a PR angle, in wartime. But during training, such incidents are much harder to handle. Careers are threatened, as the senior officers are very much afraid of paper bullets from the media and politicians. Even in wartime, there is reluctance to let the troops train too realistically, even if this is what the troops (who should know) are demanding. 

 


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