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Author Tom Kratman Talks Military Training

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

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.

ON TRAINING FOR WAR, PART 1

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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 www.baen.com.