Velocity Systems

Author Tom Kratman Talks Military Training

Tom Kratman is an author of military science fiction but unlike many authors, he is a Veteran having served as an enlisted Soldier and commissioned officer, retiring as a LTC from the USAR. Below is an excerpt from an article he wrote on military training for his publisher, Baen Books. Politically correct, he ain’t. But that’s the point.



Axiom One: The functions of training, the reasons we train, and all training can do for us, boil down to five things: Skill Training, Conditioning, Development, Selection, and Testing of Doctrine and Equipment.

The armed forces have a serious doctrinal lack when it comes to explaining why we train and how we do. Since they can’t articulate things like, “No, Doctor, Ranger School sucks in the way it does because we are conditioning and selecting, not merely teaching skills,” we get changes demanded from unqualified amd ignorant people, with credentials that bear no particular relationship to train for war.
I’ve spent, by the way, a number of decades since I first floated this axiom around, looking for a valid argument against it from anyone entitled to an opinion. I still haven’t gotten one, beyond the merest quibble. Every practicing trainer would probably recognize these as valid, even if they wouldn’t necessarily articulate them in exactly the same way.

The five functions should not be looked at as things that can be added up, to come to an approximation of a unit’s or individual’s training status. To even hope to do that you would have to be able to measure some immeasurables. Forget it; all the really important things can’t be measured, while all the really measurable things aren’t very important.

But if you could measure everything, trying to add their values together would still be the wrong way to look at it. After all, a soldier or a battalion, be they ever so skilled, are still worthless if they lack the courage to stand in line of battle, or to press the assault home. Instead, the proper way to look at them would be as things that must be multiplied by each other, with any factor being a zero causing the total to be worth zero, even if one approached infinity. Of course, again, since most of these are anywhere from difficult to impossible to measure, you’re not going to get a true value. The important thing to remember is that a zero in one is a zero overall, and even a serious weakness is one means weakness overall.

It’s also worth remembering that there is crossover. Better shooting ability, a skill, requires a degree of physical conditioning, but also conditions greater confidence, for example. Greater confidence develops greater trust and unit cohesion. I will treat these functions as distinct, for the most part, the better to illustrate them. But they are actually much fuzzier, with much more crossover, than that. They also apply in different ways at different levels, while some are appropriate to leaders, not so key to followers, and still others are collective, applying not just to everyone but to everyone in a unit together.

Be sure to read the entire article at

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16 Responses to “Author Tom Kratman Talks Military Training”

  1. Andrew K says:

    “Forget it; all the really important things can’t be measured, while all the really measurable things aren’t very important.”

    Awesome, just awesome.

    • Baldwin says:

      “The important thing to remember is that a zero in one is a zero overall, and even a serious weakness is one means weakness overall.”

      Love this guy’s focus and accuracy!

  2. Lucky says:

    I know him, that is, if he was a Civil Affairs Officer, and if so, I know his son as well…

  3. ENthePeasant says:

    Good stuff.

  4. Lucky says:

    Then I know both him and his son Kenny. Long story, but I served with them when I was a Boot, then, again with the Son in the Stan

  5. Jon says:

    He looks kinda like Mr. Bean

    • Tom Kratman says:

      And you’ve never seen me and Mr. Bean on the same TV show at the same time, either, have you? What more proof does one need?


      Part II of the article is up now, too. I don’t know how many parts it will be broken into. Probably 5-6. Eventually, I’ll turn it into a full length book, since Collins’ Common Sense Training is somewhat dated now.

      • Michael Ball says:

        Part 2 is worth a read, too. After reading the vignette about the “Old Guard”, it seems tragically ironic that as soon as we started fighting 2 wars, TRADOC diminished the importance of Drill & Ceremonies in Initial Entry Training. I hate D&C as much as the next guy, but I do think it serves a purpose, especially in IET Soldiers.

      • SGT Dan's Cat says:

        Yeah, you guys who aren’t as familiar with his work should have been warned- he greatly enjoys dueling critics on the Internet. Probably the only author I know of who prowls his Amazon reviews.

    • CF says:

      Mr. Bean?

      MR. BEAN!?

      Mr. Bean does a lot of things, but Driving Tranzis Into Conniptions is none of them.

      There is only one Rowan Atkinson character capable of *that*: Edmund F. Blackadder. 🙂

  6. H.C. says:

    Awesome… who can argue with this? nailed it… thanks for the post.

  7. JES says:

    Also a great sci-fi author. I particularly liked _The Amazon Legion_; _Come and Take Them_ is next on my reading list.

  8. Jon Meyer says:

    “Any bitches, moans, gripes, complaints? Thought not.”

    Good read.