Amid today’s modern warfare technology and evolving battlefield tactics, instruction in rudimentary rifle marksmanship has not gone out of style as a major portion of U.S. Army basic training.
“Regardless of what a Soldier’s military occupational specialty or branch is, when you get right down to it, they’re (still) all infantrymen in a sense,” CPT Jason Vaughn, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson, SC, told Army.mil News this week.
Typically, today’s fresh Army recruit in initial entry training spend a total of 10 full days out of a 10-week training cycle just acquiring, honing and polishing their marksmanship skills.
“We start soldiers out with the drills like the dime and washer drills and the (Engagement Skills Trainer) to help them get the fundamentals down,” Vaughn said. He stressed the importance of first learning the basics of good marksmanship—things like breathing, sight picture, target acquisition—before heading to the firing line.
“If they hone those skills before they get up there, then muscle memory takes over and the fundamentals become second nature,” the Company B commander said.
Drill sergeants like SSG Adam Gamache agreed the importance of mastering the fundamentals cannot be underestimated, something that has remained consistent within Army training for more than a century—and for good reason.
“All of the drills that these soldiers are working on out here today mirror a fundamental that they need when they get up to the firing line. We … teach the soldiers from the ground up that the weapon is not just an accessory that they have to carry around. It has to be cared for and there’s certain things they have to do to become proficient at it,” Gamache said.
While teaching an individual soldier rifle marksmanship may appear straightforward, Gamache, says the process takes on a whole new meaning for Soldiers in basic combat training.
“When you try to take a soldier who has never even held a weapon like this, multiply that by 60, and try to get them to a level where they are proficient at firing that weapon, it takes things to a much higher level. But, at the end of the day, when you get to a point where it clicks in the mass majority of them, you stand back and say, 'Yeah, I did that,’” he said.