Back to Basics: Training in basic Soldier skills is the pinnacle, foundation for everything warriors do daily
Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Devens
Command Sergeant Major, 25th Infantry Division
The mastering of basic, common task skills is the most significant component of military training in our Army today.
As we continue to face the complexity of determining our “Center of Gravity” for military operations, our basic warrior skills, at the individual level, has and will always determine our success in military operations and combat.
During decades of peacetime training, prior to 9/11, we focused on common task skills, but the priority was on large unit maneuver warfare and air/land battle success, while our supporting units operated safely behind friendly lines.
We kept our military training uniformed and in order, using layers of checks and balances to keep us conventional and predictable, shunning away from new technology and unconventional ways of operating.
In fact, back then, most leaders refused creative ideas and recommendations from subordinates and directed missions/orders from enemy doctrine to avoid enemy strengths and strike at their weaknesses.
Now, we recognize, in conflict, all enemy combatants can operate freely and strike at any time.
So leaders must insist on the mastery of basic warrior skills at the lowest level with the ability to adapt, operate and fight within the framework of full-spectrum operations to destroy an enemy combatant or force.
The best method for each Soldier is to gain this mastery of individual common task skills through repetitive and varying training execution, until each skill becomes a natural movement that gradually develops into a habit, and can be effectively applied with a lethal reaction when needed.
We all know the mastering of basics in warfighting is difficult, as it is not the same for each Soldier.
Leaders and Soldiers need to first understand their own strengths and weaknesses in the areas of shooting, moving and physical fitness as warriors, but we cannot just focus our training using the step-by-step processes provided in Army manuals.
We must be more demanding and broad-minded at the individual level and develop combat focused marksmanship, combat trauma medical care, dynamic maneuver ability and athlete warrior fitness — all focused on the Soldier and unit combat mission requirements and success.
In marksmanship, it is not merely qualifying on a rifle, pistol or machine gun with a center-illuminated optic, or shooting 300-500 rounds of ball ammo during reflexive fire training on a 25-meter silhouette at night with an advanced target pointer/illuminator/aiming light.
The mastering of combat marksmanship skills involves the understanding of ballistics/projectiles in flight and how the bullet’s behavior will allow a Soldier to precisely place the impact to the best of his/her ability.
First, we must master the understanding of ballistics from standard weapon systems before progressing to an enhancing system, such as scopes or lasers.
We must conduct weapons training with an elevated heart rate to match the adrenaline level that will be present during any given combat situation.
These methods also apply for mastering basic combat trauma medical skills.
We cannot be satisfied that everyone is Combat Lifesaver Course-qualified and knows how to apply a ratchet tourniquet or knows how to insert an intravenous needle to relieve a tension pneumothorax.
It is vitally important to effectively apply tactical combat trauma care in the midst of fighting, while maintaining security, cover and concealment and effectively applying firepower, when needed.
Our training must simulate combat and allow us to master our combat trauma skills.
All these methods are mastering the basics at their best.
All Soldiers and leaders must understand that training the basic Soldier skills is the groundwork of everything they do as warriors.
When we apply repetitive and varying training on our basic common task skills, and continuously hone those skills through catastrophic, chaotic and combat simulated training, we do what is expected of the leaders of our nation.
As our nation’s warriors, we swore an oath to go in harm’s way and be the most lethal and effective military force in the world, when needed.
Therefore, to ensure we succeed, we must master our basic warrior skills to continue our success in the harsh and unforgiving brutality of combat whenever, wherever.