On 13 May the Army published the new TC 3-22.9. We made every attempt to get the word out far and wide with some blog posts, notes from industry celebrities and the help of places like RE Factor Tactical, Primary and Secondary, and Soldier Systems Daily. At last count our efforts have been successful well beyond expectations.
With that, I am making the following assumptions most of you who care, have read or have heard someone talking about it. We can now talk about what’s in it, how it got there and the most interesting part, what is NOT in it. Let’s start with what’s not in it and discuss that first.
Fundamentals, principles, firing tasks.
“There are four fundamentals but only two are important and the other two support the other two”
“Breathing is a fundamental but is not important”
“fix yer breathing, don’t go a jerkin that trigger”
“Apply the fundamentals”
If you have been around Army Marksmanship you have probably heard the above statements at one time or another. Possibly all in one range by NCO’s that qualify at different times than the Soldiers because they don’t want the Soldiers to see them shoot. The above statements sound good when you say them and while not wrong really say nothing at all. Worse, they are confusing and make teaching and applying things harder than they need to be. Some leaders are very adept at saying “apply the fundamentals” and can’t remember what they are on demand. But by saying that, they are able to give accepted instruction without truly doing or knowing anything.
Last year the Army had 5 fundamentals for pistols, 4 for rifle, 8 for machine guns, none for missiles and 1 in 5 NCO’s could not tell you more than the promotion board answer on anything shooting related. When you leave the confines of Army Marksmanship you will hear there are two fundamentals, 8 fundamentals, 10, 4, 3 etc. The more you research, the more confusing it got. For those that say it has always been this way, I challenge you to read FM 23-9, 1966. The chapter on marksmanship will promptly take what you have been led to understand about what we have always done and flush it down the toilet.
My job last February was to look at all these things and build a book that would allow us, the Army, to clean up some of the above mess. Having trained with Defoor, 75th Ranger Regiment, attended the Master Marksmanship Trainer course, and successfully developed and conducted my own course at the 10th Mountain, put me in a position to have heard all of the above statements and been taught the same number of fundamentals. That caused me to do one thing. Ask what was truly fundamental.
Let’s start with a definition
– a central or primary rule or principle on which something is based
By applying this definition we can relook what is fundamental. First off let’s apply it to a sentence.
Breathing is a fundamental of marksmanship.
That statement was true to the fact that yes, the Army said breathing was a fundamental. Is it though? Research from the Army Research Laboratory, shooters from across the Army, and many of the high level instructors in the industry disagree. In fact, most say that shallow breathing with very minimal pause right before the shot breaks is the preferred technique. Under stress or combat conditions our heart rate and breathing rate will probably rise. The above logic says that if I am breathing I am failing to apply a fundamental and will miss. I submit thousands of hits in 15 years of combat that take breathing from fundamental to a factor in shot placement.
If we look at the other fundamentals as presented one can find that only 2 things hold true as fundamental. Properly Aim the rifle and fire it without inducing any undesired movement. I would have accepted those as fundamentals and during the writing of the book presented them as such. Many people disliked that and in the end they are called “truths”
During one of the many debates that waged, I asked an established shooter to take a shot with a SIRT pistol and talk me through every step. What he laid out became the base for the Shot process. Before we get into that, let me say clearly that fundamentals do not appear in the book.
Again, there is no use of the word fundamental in TC 3-22.9. You can look, Ctrl-F, search and read every line. It isn’t there.
The Shot Process
What is in the new book is the Shot Process. Using the notes I took from the shooter, my own experience, thoughts from the AMU, and vetting it with the masterminds from across the Army and industry, we refined this process to what was published. Basically, for every shot you build a position, get as stable as possible or as needed, apply perfect aim and control many factors such as the trigger, lead, or anything else that your internal fire control system deems necessary for that particular shot. You do this over and over as needed.
Sports psychology has shown us that a process and plenty of practice using that process programs our axioms, neurons and muscles to the task. But we must do consistent repetitions in order to build this true definition of what laymen call muscle memory. The process allows us to do this. It also assists with focus and giving the proper amount of attention control to whatever stage of the process we are in. This allows us to manage our mental energy expended during the task.
So experience, science, and leaning forward on the Army leadership’s desire for smart, fast, lethal and precise Soldier’s, led to the shot process. The Army also desires critical thinkers. The first question of critical thinking is, why? I personally have no problem with this question. After 20 years of doing Army things I should know exactly why we are doing anything. A Soldier asking that question does not bother me. I know many who do have an issue with it and honestly I don’t understand. We build men and women not drones, and they deserve the answer to the question.
Recently, I got to participate in a study in which I trained young men and women who had never held a rifle before. The shot process was easy for them to understand and easy to teach. By applying adult learning principles, the process is easy to correlate to things the learners already know such as golf, soccer, weight lifting, baseball and basketball.
Closing of part 1
The Shot Process is the same for rifles, carbines, deer rifles, pistols, missiles, slingshots, and by replacing the fundamentals training with training on the shot process, leaders and coaches will be more efficient and more easily understood. It allows us to apply adult learning concepts and sports psychology to get the most out of our limited time to train vital tasks.
By using this all those we train will have the ability and the baseline to build into greatness. In the dark of night in some foreign land on the offense or in the middle of the day here in the states in self-defense, the shot process is more durable under stress than arbitrary “fundamentals”