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SITREP: August 1998

By Dan Shea

“They don’t give us any training ammunition. We don’t have spare parts. People are coming into the unit with virtually no weapons training.”

I have had numerous conversations with soldiers from various groups of the armed forces lately, and this is the message I keep getting. It is an unsettling one to say the least. You fight the way you train. If you don’t train, you don’t fight- at least not effectively. I had been thinking of writing a little piece on “Saving the relics” in different museums, etc, but this is more pressing business.

A gymnast who doesn’t practice loses the essential timing and may take an embarrassing pratfall. A musician who doesn’t practice will not be pleasant to listen to- and lose an audience. A football team that doesn’t practice will lose games. A soldier who doesn’t practice marksmanship and maintenance of his weapon is one who can’t fight or defend, and may cause the loss of lives and missions.

There was a time when weapons firing was a primary training activity in all branches of the service- especially in units likely to see combat during a war. I find it frightening to think of servicemen and women, all who could come in harm’s way, not being prepared to properly defend themselves or perform a primary mission. This is inexcusable. Stories from right before World War I and World War II speak of trainees running down the training grounds with empty rifles, or even wooden dummy rifles, shouting “Bang” instead of shooting. Are our “Modern” armed forces headed the same way?

I hear policemen talking of Chiefs who not only don’t want them training, but really don’t want to issue firearms unless “needed”. The theory seems to be that if you aren’t used to firing your weapon, then you won’t choose it as a first resort. “Pulling the trigger comes too easy” was the comment that I heard. Good Lord! That is what “Shoot / No-shoot” targets are for, that is what realistic training is for- to train the officers to be proficient with when to shoot and when not to, as well as bullet placement.

It seems that one way or another, bureaucracy is hamstringing those who serve to protect us! In the military case, the budget calls for less or no live fire, and in law enforcement, it’s even crazier- training ammunition is not available because some chiefs don’t want the officers trained!

Maybe we should sponsor “Take a cop to the range” week, or “Bullets for soldiers” door to door collection campaigns. At the very least, I would hope SAR’s military readers and law enforcement readers would continue to spread the word among their peers, and perhaps actively recruit more shooting teams. This could be informal if necessary, on duty if official sanction could be had.

Civilians should do no less. Those who understand the obligations of freedom should enjoy their firearms, and train for accuracy. The Director of Civilian Marksmanship and associated programs were formed up to ensure that there was a pool of well trained marksmen in the civilian population that could be called on during times of national need.

I shall continue to enjoy recreational shooting, but it’s going to be a point with me from now on to find ways to advocate more live fire training for those who wear the uniforms.

- Dan Shea

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