Stress-induced weapons training prepares Soldiers for combat
August 15, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. (Aug. 15, 2013) -- A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery leaders, added a twist to their normal weapons training July 31 at Fort Sill.
Rather than do the usual M4 and M16 rifle weapons-familiarization, they added the element of high stress, both mental and physical, mimicking the emotions and fatigue Soldiers could face when engaged in combat.
The planning for the training began months before with 1st Sgt. Shawn Sommerfeld formulating the concept for a high stress shoot and reflexive fire training event for the battery. It would ensure Soldiers would face something more challenging than they previously performed.
Sommerfeld hoped his Soldiers would benefit from the demanding exercises.
"My goal is the Soldiers will see the importance of physical fitness in combat so when they are thrown into stressful situations they will be better suited mentally and can improve their physical fitness if they struggled to complete these events," said Sommerfeld.
"The idea for the range derives from the fact that we may be artillerymen, but we are Soldiers first, and marksmanship is a perishable skill. We wanted to simulate the physical and mental stress of shooting as much as possible, while still in a controlled environment," explained 2nd Lt. Amy Stolberg, officer in charge of the range.
The concept for the stress shoot revolved around six physical events, with three rounds shot at each event. Physical events consisted of combinations of push-ups, sit-ups, a litter sprint, burpee exercises and individual movement techniques. Soldiers completed each physical event in full uniform, including body armor, and carried their weapons.
The first round of shooters approached their lanes to prepare for their initial physical exercises which included 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups and a 30-meter sprint down and back.
The day started off at 85 degrees and with temperatures quickly rising, Soldiers battled not only physical and mental stress, but exhaustion from heat as well. This served as a reminder that the Soldiers need to be prepared for any kind of weather condition.
After completion of the opening round's physical challenges, Soldiers ran back up the set of steps to their weapons, quickly moving into the prone position and rapidly firing three rounds downrange at their targets.
The exercise cycles required the Soldiers to perform: a 30-meter four-man litter carry, 20 burpees, 100 over-head arm-claps, 3- to 5-second buddy rushes, individual movement techniques for 30 meters and another round of 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups and a 30-meter sprint down and back.
Soldiers completed all exercises then sprinted up to their firing position to shoot three more rounds downrange. The consistent movement and rapid execution kept Soldiers under a stressful and physically draining environment.
"Toward the end of the exercises was most difficult. The ability to maintain steady breathing while trying to accurately fire rounds downrange becomes increasingly challenging as each exercise added to our exhaustion," said Spc. Steven Farr.
After all Soldiers achieved mission success for the stress shoot portion of the day's training, they moved to a reflexive fire range. Coaches went through a dry run with the Soldiers to ensure all were prepared for the firing exercise with live rounds.
Soldiers executed the reflexive fires by walking toward their target as their lane coaches moved with them, calling out a specified shape and color for their Soldiers to engage, determining which target to hit. Soldiers then stood in place, quickly turned to the left or right toward their target, and fired a controlled pair as their coaches continued to call out commands. This training let each Soldier get in tune with rapidly executing fires while movements ensured they could operate their weapon under various situations.
Most Soldiers said they appreciated the training's challenge that focused on quickness and accuracy.
Both exercises at the range gave Soldiers a perspective of different situations to prepare for. The training also allowed Soldiers experience firing their weapons outside of the standard prone position while challenging them to think quickly and push through physically and mentally tough obstacles.
"It was not easy training," says Staff Sgt. Jerry Burks. "It lets a Soldier come to the reality that the enemy will not wait for you to be well rested before they decide to engage you downrange. It exposes Soldiers to a stressful and real life environment to ensure that they can still shoot and achieve mission success for these types of circumstances."
Executing training like the stress shoot and reflexive fire achieved a better mission readiness for A Battery, exactly what Sommerfield had hoped for. Because Soldiers need to be prepared and comfortable with their weapon downrange, introducing stressful training should push Soldiers to be better prepared while building a stronger fighting force.