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TEST FIRING WEAPONS AND PRECOMBAT CHECKS

It is important to allocate time in the troop leading procedure/preparation for combat operations sequence for test firing weapons, especially small arms. This lesson has been relearned most recently in Grenada. Most units involved test fired their weapons as part of the predeployment sequence. Aside from the obvious indentification of malfunctioning weapons, it boosted the confidence and morale of the soldiers.

Precombat checks are discussed in FM 71-1J, Mechanized Infantry Company Team, p 2-18. As Appendix VII, FM 21-50, Ranger Training and Ranger Operations, Jan 62, points out, test firing of weapons is part of these precombat inspections. This manual is out of print, but much of the information on precombat checks is still valid. All ARTEP Mission Training Plans (MTPs) being produced by the Infantry School include this critical aspect.

These procedures need to become part of unit tactical SOPs. During training exercises, integrate these drills into live fire situations, range firing, and crew qualification courses so that these preparations for combat are done by junior leaders as a matter of course.

THE THIRD DIMENSION OF THE BATTLEFIELD

Don't forget that critical vertical dimension of the battlefield. What seems like a good idea from the ground perspective could be fatal when viewed from the air.

Vehicle Smoke Systems

Use of vehicle on-board smoke systems is very effective in concealing movement from ground observation when used properly (to augment other types of smoke). FM 71-1, Tank and Mechanized Infantry Company Teams, Appendix G, discusses uses of various kinds of smoke in many different situations. However, the negative effects of the vehicle engine exhaust smoke system (VEESS), from the perspective of the enemy air threat, is not mentioned. Pilots of fixed and rotary wing aircraft report that they are able to easily identify and fix on vehicles employing this type of smoke, especially when used alone. Consider not using or shutting off on board smoke systems when high performance aircraft or enemy helicopters appear or are likely to appear. Your smoke plan should integrate a variety of smoke delivery means, based on METT-T, and shouldn't depend too heavily on any one method.

Vehicle Camouflage

There is plenty of guidance on camouflage vehicles. FM 90-3 Desert Operations, Appendix E; FM 5-20, Camouflage, Ch 6; and TC 5-200/TB 43-0209 (for specific vehicle patterns) all contain useful information. Siting, texture, camouflage nets, shadows, and paint patterns are all part of the overall camouflage strategy. If possible, you should check your position from the air as well as from the enemy ground view. Aircraft, either fixed wing or helicopters, can easily detect unpainted beds of trucks, open cargo hatches and dropped ramps of personnel carriers or the undersides of raised vehicle hoods. Be sure to paint those surfaces that aren't so obvious from the ground. Failure to get these forgotten areas under control can ruin your entire survivability plan.

FORCE MULTIPLIERS -- SNIPER TEAM

Sniper teams can provide a low cost force multiplier by placing accurate, long range fire on selected targets, directing indirect fires or CAS, and by reporting enemy information. Sniper teams can eliminate targets well beyond the range of the average rifleman. Unfortunately, we have just about written snipers out of our force structure.

Grenada Experience

In Grenada, Ranger snipers were employed against command and control personnel and crew served weapons. In one case, they eliminated a Cuban mortar position by killing or wounding 18 of the mortarmen. Interrogation of prisoners revealed that sniper fire was directly responsible in reducing the Cubans' will to fight. The current reference, TC 23-14, Sniper Training and Employment, Oct 69, contains good, but somewhat dated, information. To gain this capability, some units have resourced snipers out of hide. The Berlin Bde and the XVIII Abn Corps have put together sniper teams and training programs for snipers.

Infantry School Actions

The Infantry School is working on a fix to this problem. The current thought is to place the sniper function in the scout platoon (all infantry battalions, except mech) as an additional skill identifier. This concept was presented to attendees at the Infantry Commander's Conference in April 86.

A three week POI has been developed, and an ASI producing course will be offered in FY 87, pending HQ TRADOC approval. Concurrently, actions are being taken to have a sniper ASI added to the personnel management system.

Once the sniper concept has been officially approved, action will be taken to procure a new sniper weapon. Finally, a new FM (FM 23-999) on snipers will be out in final draft form in Jan 87.


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