New training method produces better marksmen
December 4, 2009
- Soldiers hone their marksmanship skills using outcome-based training and education at Fort Sill
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Sgt. Barry Crossman was in the zone, knocking down knee-high targets 250 and 300 meters away and bouncing shots off the torso-sized iron target 300 meters distant.
Out-shooting all but one of his 19 classmates in the 300-meter three target contest, he did so with the precision of someone well acquainted with rifle marksmanship.
Except, this Soldier from 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, admitted to barely qualifying as a marksman throughout his nine-year career.
That changed when Crossman attended an outcome-based training and education, or OBTE, course recently.
Taught by noncommissioned officers from C Company, 434th Field Artillery Detachment, the class, built around assault rifle marksmanship, teaches fundamentals these mid-level NCOs have already learned, but it does it in a different manner, said Capt. Paul Santamaria, company commander.
"Instructors don't teach methods used at sniper school, they teach marksmanship in a relaxed environment where the outcome is stressed from beginning to end," he said.
The OBTE approach and philosophy refined Soldier skills to develop important attributes, such as problem solving, confidence, accountability, judgment, initiative and self discipline.
Through a series of increasingly demanding exercises, Soldiers solve problems, use initiative and make decisions while being held accountable for their actions. With coaching by subject matter experts, the Soldiers develop self-discipline and self-motivation, both key attributes of adaptable combat Soldiers.
Several times instructors reminded students OBTE is a tool that could be adapted to other training situations. The lessons learned translate to any activity whether tossing a grenade, fighting with a bayonet or performing day-to-day activities at home or work.
However, focusing on marksmanship let instructors relate to Soldiers in an area they were familiar with and provide immediate feedback as the Soldiers gained proficiency with their weapons.
"I believe Soldiers would want to know more about something they carry with them 24 hours a day when they deploy," said Santamaria. "Rather than just knowing how to zero and qualify on their weapon, they would want to know the mechanics of trigger squeeze, certain steps to correct a malfunction and why to configure their gear to reach magazines easier.
"After all, in combat the outcome we're all seeking is to engage the enemy and take him out," he said.
Staff Sgt. Elias Cuellar is one of the instructor's Santamaria leans on to get the message out on OBTE. Like many NCOs, he has seen his share of combat and lost friends in firefights.
"I've been through a lot of training in my 16 years of service, and this is one of the best methods I've seen," Cuellar said. "This training puts Soldiers in realistic environment, and it gets into detail to make sure Soldiers know the information."
Day four of the five-day class found the Soldiers on the shooting range honing their rifle craft in individual and team exercises. Rather than just stand, kneel or lay like they would on a regular rifle range, they used various props or movements to represent aspects of a combat firefight.
In one exercise Soldiers fired six shots, but did more than pump lead into a target as they negotiated a little scenario. Crouching behind a barricade, Soldiers fired two rounds from one magazine then hustled to a second barricade where they quickly changed magazines and fired four more rounds at a different target.
Speed and accuracy were the desired outcome and one Soldier met this ideal completing the scenario in a mere 21 seconds.
Another exercise found Soldiers in teams of seven running a shooting relay, firing at targets 100 meters away. One team member was tasked to be an ammo runner who would cover about 25 meters to get the six-round clips then run back and distribute them. Ammo runners positioned their clips on the barricades so they could easily grab them then run back with minimal delay. Once back, team members received the ammo and locked and loaded one magazine before one Soldier could begin the relay.
Taking his turn in the relay, Crossman trotted up to the barrier, his rifle held at low ready. Though other teammates fired from the kneeling position, he lay prone with his body aligned to the targets.
"This is my most steady position and gave me the best chance to put steel on target," he said.
Following the relay's completion, Staff Sgt. Eric Gregory checked targets and determined the fastest team. But, rather than return to more firing, he held an after action review to discuss ideas of how to make the training more effective and meaningful to the eventual outcome - not firing on a stateside rifle range, but engaging an enemy in combat.
When teams were locked and loaded, instructors asked the Soldiers how they communicated their readiness. Some stood, others called out "ready," and while there was no right answer the instructors reminded the Soldiers to consider the combat environment and to think of communicating in more than one manner.
Staff Sgt. Xiomara Boley of 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, started the week more familiar with personnel reports than her rifle. By the end of day 4, she was confident.
"I don't shoot a lot so it was a good feeling to do well today. I liked how the cadre helped me going over the techniques and fundamentals of shooting. In this instance, I saw how the wind move my weapon, but I just focused on the fundamentals, breathed in, exhaled then fired once I was steady," she said.