It Started at An Early Age...
Recently rediscovered pictures of me, from one of my mom's old albums.
My second birthday, 1976.
Commentary on Basic Rifle Marksmanship
Sir John of Castle Argghhh! calls for my commentary in this post on changes to the Army's Basic Marksmanship (BRM) training regimen. Since I can't turn down a ranking officer (even a retired one), much less one of the immortal Jonah's Military Guys (TM), I'll give it my best shot. (Sorry I'm a day late, Sir John, I'm on Christmas leave.)
Reading the article John quotes, I'm a bit confused. The changes described in the article are, as far as I've been briefed, two separate initiatives aimed at two different objectives. The first part is the Engagement Skills Trainer (EST) 2000 (the name in itself says worlds about the Army's acquisition and fielding processes), plus a few other additions to marksmanship training that the article doesn't get into. The second part is what, at my current station of Fort Jackson, is called "weapons immersion"-issuing the troops their rifles during the first week of training and having them keep them until they're ready to graduate.
BRM improvements: the biggest change here is the introduction of the EST 2000 to replace the 70s vintage (I think-John, correct me if I'm wrong here)Weaponeer trainer. The EST is a vastly more capable system, which can take a soldier all the way from practicing zeroing the weapon-analyzing what they're doing right and wrong in the process-the all the stages up to practice qualification, all without firing a shot. And it can do this without using any actual ammunition, just shooting light at a video screen, and for just about any weapon system in the Army inventory, from M9 9mm piston to M2 .50 cal heavy machinegun. It uses compressed air, supplied by a hose, to simulate recoil. (For the trivia minded, in blogger Risawn's (in)famous "I'm Not Sorry" pic, she was holding an EST 2000 version of the M16/M203 combo.) The system can do more, including advanced marksmanship courses of fire with moving targets, or offensive or defensive combat scenarios, including MOUT. But for basic training, we're just using zeroing, pattern analysis, and the steps up to practice qualification. But even with that, it represents a huge step forward from what we've got. Here at Fort Jackson, we expect to get our first EST 2000 sometime next year, and will have several systems on post by the end of FY 06.
The next piece is what, at least here at Fort Jackson, we call "weapons immersion." This has not much to do with BRM training, and a whole lot to do with reducing Negligent Discharges (NDs.) Once upon a time, basic trainees went everywhere with their weapons once they were issued to them. Then, sometime after Vietnam, the Army became in many ways a garrison army. Weapons only come out of the arms room when necessary for training, and were turned back in when that specific training was done. Now the Army finds itself in a situation where the troops in the field take loaded weapons everywhere with them, 24/7. Loaded weapons, plus troops who aren't used to carrying them around at all times, leads to NDs. And lots of NDs mean people get shot, and killed. Last time my brigade commander briefed us, the U.S. military had lost 24 troops killed to NDs since the start of the GWOT. That's 2/3 of a line Infantry platoon gone because somebody couldn't handle a weapon safely.
The solution? Weapons immersion. Troops get issued weapons during the first week of Basic Training, and they take them everywhere. After rifle qualification, every soldier gets 5 rounds of blanks ammuntion to put in his magazine, and they lock and load whenever they leave the battalion area. (It will be interesting to see the troops on post detail raking the HQ lawn with loaded M16s.) Any ND after this point means a soldier gets immediately re-started in basic training to the start of BRM training, in order to learn proper and safe weapons handling. A side bonus to the program is that, since the troops have their rifles at all times, drill sergeants can conduct more pre-BRM training during downtime (like waiting for a bus pick-up.)
That's the story from my foxhole.
PSA from the Institute for Justice
The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled argument for Kelo v. City of New London, a case in which seven property owners are challenging the government's taking of their non-blighted homes for "economic development," for Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 10 a.m. Your support of the Institute for Justice's efforts has been integral to defending property rights and homeowners in this case.
Twenty-five amicus briefs have been filed on behalf of the homeowners by a cross section of individuals ranging from the progressive to conservative and libertarian. Among those who have filed briefs calling for the end of the use of eminent domain for economic development are civil rights groups including the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the AARP, noted legal scholar Richard Epstein, many State Policy Network organizations, the American Farm Bureau, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors.
All 25 of the briefs are available on the Institute for Justice's website at www.ij.org/kelo.
This is the most important SCOTUS case on eminent domain in 50 years. IJ has a good track record. Pray for the good guys.
On the San Fran Handgun Ban
I was late in making comments on this, and since pretty much everyone else got there before me and said what I would have said, I didn't bother. Publicola has excellent commentary as always.
Prof. Eugene Volokh also comes forth with excellent commentary, and probably the best quotes I've read on the issue.
Of course, some might argue to pro-gun-rights people living in (say) Texas or Florida or Virginia, "no-one is trying to take your guns — only those of people in more pro-gun-control places, like San Francisco." That, though, presupposes that gun rights activists are only interested in their own rights. Why should anyone assume that?
I take it that abortion rights activists in California wouldn't be persuaded by anti-abortion activists' arguments that "Oh, don't worry, we won't ban abortions in California, since obviously we wouldn't have the votes; we're just trying to ban them in Texas." Presumably the abortion rights activists would say that they care about what they see as the fundamental rights of people all over the country. Likewise, I would think, with gun rights activists.
This specific issue, on top of the generally moonbattish state of politics in the People's Republic of Kalifornia, lead me to some personal ponderings. You see, I grew up in the PRK, within 50 miles of SF. My parents, and most of my blood relatives, still live there. I grew, and remain, a fan of the San Francisco Giants and Forty Niners (plus the later addition San Jose Sharks.)
Now, in the Canon of Unwritten Manly Rules, is it allowed to change one's loyalty to a sports team a man has loved since childhood, due to the obnoxious politics of the team or teams' home city/state?
Furthermore, is such a thing even spiritually possible?
More on the SecDef & Armored Cargo Vehicles
An excellent post at Instapundit about new info on the brouhaha over unarmored cargo vehicles in the Kuwait-Iraq theater. Seems the unit of the soldier who asked the furor-inducing question had, at the time of the question, over 95% of its 800+ vehicles armored.
On a related note, there is this story from the local Columbia, SC paper. Army Reserve and Kellog, Brown, & Root (which is a subsidiary of Halliburton) mechanics designing and building a removable way to turn heavy cargo trucks into gun trucks to help protect convoys.
To me, this displays one of the greatest strengths of the U.S. military, especially at the individual and small unit level: innovation. The ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome. In WWII, faced with the problem of the Normandy hedgerows, Army mechanics devised the Rhino plow fitted to our tanks, and built them in part using German beach obstacles. In Vietnam, where convoys faced attacks much like in Iraq (albeit from a less technologically advanced foe), they built armored boxes on gun mounts on the back of 2.5 and 5 ton trucks. I even saw footage of one such truck that had a stripped down M113 APC body (stripped to the point that is was just an armored box) placed in the cargo bed of the truck.
Now, about the truck that they put the box on: that particular truck is called a Super HETT (Heavy Equipment Transport Truck). The primary job of the Super HETT, which usually has a lowboy trailer attached, is to haul heavy tracked vehicles-tanks, Bradleys, M88 recovery vehicles-around, either because they can't move on their own, or to move them long distances without a lot of wear and tear on the tracked vehicle. I'd have to imagine, except when heavy tank/mechanized units are moving in or out of Iraq from Kuwait, these trucks aren't utilized nearly as much as other types. That's where this design is so brilliant: it takes an asset that's underutilized and gets more use from it, and the same time increasing the ability of tranportation units to protect themselves. And the armored gunbox is removable, so if the unit needs to drag some tanks around, they can take the boxes off, hook the tractors up to the trailers, and get the job done.
Kudos to the guys who thought this up and built it.