New Marksmanship Test Aims To Create More Realistic Environment

CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. — While it hasn’t received as much attention as the new Army physical fitness evaluation, the 40 targets on the rifle marksmanship range are also about to be engaged in a more combat-focused manner.

Soldiers from the Wyoming Army National Guard’s C Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment (Forward) were the first to try out the new test at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center as part of pre-deployment training that will require them to conduct the proposed analysis two more times this year.

The new marksmanship test has been undergoing evaluations and changes for about two years, primarily by the active duty’s airborne infantry units, and is slated to become the Army-wide standard for rifle marksmanship qualification in the fiscal year 2020.

“It’s a lot more functional and realistic, integrating more of a rifleman’s tasks,” said Staff Sgt. Zach Semmons, a squad leader with 1/297th. “You have to maintain situational awareness, keep a round count, and execute combat magazine changes, all while engaging the targets.”

According to an Army Times article from Jan. 17, 2018, Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School, said the proposed changes are all aimed at increasing Soldier lethality and presenting a more realistic shooting environment based on what the Army has seen in 16 years of combat.

As it sits now, the new weapons qualification will feature four shooting positions–prone unsupported, prone supported, kneeling supported, and standing supported. Soldiers are issued four 10-round magazines, to engage 40 pop-up targets from the four shooting positions. Some iterations will show three or four targets at a time, forcing Soldiers to be extremely focused.

Sgt. Sol Griffith, a fire team leader with the Afton-based infantry company, said the unit will conduct the qualification with its parent unit in Alaska soon, and again during mobilization training at Fort Bliss, before deploying overseas this year.

During the March 7 training day, Griffith demonstrated the test for his comrades before they conducted the current qualification for their annual records when they concluded that test, the rest of the unit tried out the future test.

Spc. Lance Pierce, a target systems repairer, assigned to Camp Guernsey’s Training Center Command, learned about the new standard last year while attending a course at Training Center University, and built a software program that would run the test and the targets at Camp Guernsey.

“This is the first unit to try it out,” he said before the demonstration. “No one had any use for the program until now.”

“Now you have three or four targets up at the same time, and you have to transition between them very thoughtfully,” said Griffith. “It’s not like it was with someone yelling what target is coming up. Plus, the tower doesn’t tell you when to do a (magazine) change. You have to know when to do it, and then, do it.”

The new standard is going to be difficult for a lot of shooters, even those who hold the rifleman occupational specialty. For instance, the range noncommissioned officer in charge announced from the tower’s public address system that Griffith hit 22 of the 40 targets during the demonstration. “Sgt. Griffith usually hits 40 out of 40,” the tower announcer added.

As for the rest of the unit, Semmons said about half the Soldiers met the minimum qualifying standard of 23 hits, and a 32 was the high score of the practice round.

“It was the first time trying it for most of them,” he said. “But, I think it went extremely well, and they were very receptive to it. They liked the mag change and engaging more targets.”

By Sgt. 1st Class James McGuire, Wyoming National Guard

19 Responses to “New Marksmanship Test Aims To Create More Realistic Environment”

  1. Tom says:

    How is it possible that it’s taken them two years to come up with a simple test?

    I’m also getting the vibe that the US Army is doing what the Canadian Army does; confusing a test with training.

    • Payce says:

      You’re not used to gov’t/military work, are you? Nothing moves fast, especially not stuff we need.

  2. Ton E says:

    “As it sits now, the new weapons qualification will feature four shooting positions–prone unsupported, prone supported, kneeling supported, and standing supported”

    Those are the shooting positions I shoot at for my M4 weapons qualifications the entire 11 years I’ve been in the USAF…….

    • SSD says:

      The Army just caught up.

      • Ton E says:

        I used to be envious that the Army primarily shot standing, kneeling, and prone.

      • some other joe says:

        I’ve been shooting these positions for qualification for at least that long in the Army, too. The difference on this seems to be target presentation, not shooting positions.

  3. Iheartptbelts says:

    “I think it went extremely well”
    Half of your unit failed

    • lcpl1066 says:

      The test also allowed him to identify deficiencies in training that previous testing did not identify. That is a great thing for a leader to learn.

  4. Hodge175 says:

    How not to shoot of a barricade, looks like some poor fundamentals be still used. I guess the NCO’s have not read TC 3.22

    • AbnMedOps says:

      That’s right, for the most part they have not read TC 2.22. Or much of anything else.

      These days there are not so many paper-copies of FM’s, TM’s, and TC’s down at most units. Everything is, supposedly, available on a computer, if there is connectivity, if your CAC and password work, and if you know very specifically what you are searching for, and have the time to sit in front of a screen – all very doubtful (even more so in the Reserve Components). A lot of resources go into producing “content”, but when on-line became a cheapskate replacement (instead of a supplement) for paper hard-copy distribution, well, the dissemination of knowledge fell right off the cliff.

      • Hodge175 says:

        I am in National Guard Stryker Infantry unit. I have both the Carbine and Machine Gun TC printed out and in a binder. If there is a desire there is a way.

      • EzGoingKev says:

        IDK about all the log in and time stuff but in today’s world everything is on a computer. If you want a hard copy they have these things called printers.

      • straps says:

        A cohort of young men who can move “adult entertainment” from one side of the planet to the other can figure out a way to move an FM from a CAC-capable computer to an e-reader or tablet.

        Same with plotters, which now exist in every lettered company in every numbered battalion (unless nobody could be bothered to pack it properly or source supplies). I remember when requesting a single 24″ x 36″ print entailed forecasting a trip to a place called a TASC (staffed by friendly retired SNCOs), who wouldn’t even accept your file without a wet-signed memo from a Field Grade.

        The doctrine is better than ever. The tools for sharing it are better than ever. The obstacle is the human.

  5. B M says:

    I like the idea of tougher testing, however are they allocating additional time and ammo for Reserve Component units? I know for our predeployment to AFG work up we shot one qualification course of fire with an M17, one with an M4, and some joes shot machine gun quals. That was it.

    Yearly we might go to the range once to qualify on our M4s.

    • Hodge175 says:

      PMI starts with dry fire, many tasks and issues can be addressed without even firing a round. You do not have to fire ammo to work on shooting positions and natural point of aim and how to address and correct deficiencies. You can work on things with beam hits, EST trainers. teaching good solid peer coaching so soldiers are not wasting ammo on the range.

      There are many things that should be driven by unit NCO’s that are not. I am 50 yrs old and still serving as an NCO in a National Guard Infantry unit and work a full time civilian job as well. I have invested much of my time at drill prior to range drill weekends working with everyone I can in my Company and my battalion. States have MTU’s to reach out to as well as the Army AMU can be reached for help.

      I would say much of these falls on lazy NCO’s and not learn or reading the new TC’s which are out there. But we will flag a soldier for height and weight because he/she does not meet the standard. But putting in extra time to learn the new standard for Army marksmanship is treated like is a huge obstacle with little ways around it.

    • straps says:

      I once served in a Reserve unit that didn’t even have a formal STRAC allocation. Not 40 rounds a troop. Nothing. For anyone. We fired twice a year (funny how Ranges are ALWAYS available in December), and actually cultivated competent shooters. Nobody went to jail. Because that was the Commander’s Intent.

      Ammo was easy, the greater challenge for us was staying on top of the deal breaker RSO/CLS/Ammo Handler requirements. Schools, deployments, promotions, calendars, and distractors like the core mission kept it challenging.

  6. EODMadBomb says:

    Hopefully they can figure out what to train on to get the success rate a bit higher. As long as they don’t just change the test to fix the numbers.

    Training in the snow and the cold!…Gotta love Camp Guernsey!
    Blizzard last week, supposed to be 70 degrees this week.