Unfortunately getting out to the field to conduct some good combat training is difficult these days will such a high operational tempo and so many demands placed on the force. These obstacles make it absolutely imperative to get the most out of training. These 15 steps when applied in a well disciplined approach can greatly improve your combat training and that of your team.
15. Take it Seriously
How many times do you get out to the range or prepare for a field training exercise and you see other soldiers just goofing off. Now this is not to say that adding some humor to the daily grind can’t do wonders for being able to drive on but, without a serious intent to make the most of training time and money can get wasted. The outcome of combat readiness is of huge importance so give it the respect it deserves.
14. Set Goals
Before I even pack my rucksack I ask myself “What is the intent of this training exercise?” Weather you are the commander or the lowest private having specific goals for the training will work to generate motivation and give you a reason to continue. When things start to get hard and the rain is coming down and your boots are totally drenched if you don’t have a specific goal you will automatically go to the default goal of all combat veterans; “Let’s just get through this thing.” Once the discrete goals of the training are lost then the training ceases to provide the full potential.
13. Aim Small; Miss Small
I stopped shooting at targets a long time ago. When I say stopped shooting targets I mean I aim for places or things on the target. Aiming for the whole target was actually creating an acceptance of error as if winging the shoulder would drop a bad guy. So set yourself up to shoot a button on the shirt in center mass or the left eye on the head. When setting up targets in Combat training make sure to give these small areas for you to practice your marksmanship it will dramatically help develop your total skill.
12. Get it Done Faster
On my team almost everything is done on the clock. From setting out claymore mines to plotting routes, make sure you are doing it as efficiently as possible. The mantra “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” leaves out the most important aspect of the drill, which is “Speed is a product of the economy of motion.” Wasting time doing something that doesn’t get the job done should be skipped all together. Shooting is improved greatly with emphasis on speed. You may be able to sit on the 10 meter line and keyhole a target but, in the real world there is the quick and the dead. Make a game of competing with the guys on your team it will increase active participation and help develop important skills.
11. Do it the Same Way Every time
Now every mission is unique but the basic skeleton of what you need and what you are doing should remain generally the same. This is the point of having SOP’s (standard operating procedures) for uniform and packing. I know exactly where my poncho is because I have been putting it in the same pocket on my gear for over a decade. I always get ready in the same way, I put my war-belt on followed by my body armor and then my helmet. This may just make sense but when I go through the motions of getting ready I am also telling my body to get ready for battle; just as the way a football player has his ritual to increase performance on the field I do the same to keep me performing.
10. Take a 24 hour Break Before Heading Out
If you are out drinking and eating garbage because you need to get it all in before you go out to the field for two weeks you are letting yourself down and your team. The clubs with bad music and fat promiscuous girls will be there when you get back. Eat a few nutritious meals and hydrate so you can stay focused out there. There is nothing worse than to listen to the excuses from other guys who complain they would be able to keep up except they got so wasted last night.
9. Buy Decent Gear
Not to say that the gear makes the man but if you are training for combat the stakes are going to be very high. Using gear that is cheap and poorly made is a recipe for disaster. Cheap holsters are a danger the everyone around you and can lead to a loss of sensitive equipment. Poorly made uniforms and packs are just going to need replacement early on. If you are responsible to buy the gear you use it is highly recommended you buy top of the line made in the U.S. gear that you can trust. Besides the obvious having good well-maintained gear shows other you respect the fact that you are a professional.
8. Concentrate on Being There
When you train you need to stay present to the stuff going on around you. A recent study of candidates going through Special Forces Selection found that soldiers who used disassociation as a skill to deal with the stress and rigor of training had a much higher failure rate than the candidates who remained present and just endured the hardship. Performance happens in the present so to try to “go somewhere else in your mind” will lead to hampered performance.
7. Plan the Training Day
Going to the range or out to the field without a solid training plan for combat skill development is a waste of everyone’s time. A good plan for combat training will help keep people engaged. The act of planning for training should be a group effort with everyone getting invested in the planning process it helps develop team work and gets subordinate identifying with the over arching intent of the training. As a leader if you fail to plan then you really are just planning to fail which will not be lost on those assigned to follow you. In the Special Forces Qualification Course the saying was “You are always being assessed” and training is definitely no exception to this rule.
6. Be Humble
No one knows everything there is to know. The point of training is to get better at whatever you do. Without a humble attitude you will spend so much time wrapped up in your ego that you miss all the opportunities to master your craft.
5. Improvise hip Pocket Combat training in between Large training iterations
Especially when training on a large scale there is always time that we spend waiting around. So instead of telling war stories sitting on the airfield waiting for the aircraft to arrive spend that time working on some of the small simple tasks that can make a big difference. You can never be too good at changing magazines or calling for fire so have some improvised training tasks ready for the inevitable “hurry up and wait” situation we work in. This applies also to when for what ever reason you don’t have a range set for training and the guys want to be released to go home early, do not let this become a pattern take them outside and work battle drills in a field it doesn’t take any set up to get that invaluable training in. Taking time in between to master small skills makes a big difference.
4. Keep a Training Journal
When you have the chance to go to a combat training school or get the whole team out and do some good training is few and far between, when you learn something new write it down and keep track of what and why you learned it. I see guys go to learn the same thing year after year because in between training iterations they forget what they have learned because they don’t use those skills daily and they haven’t written it down. A journal will also act to help you teach down the road; it can act as a training plan for combat training you can go to so that your experiences can be useful to the new members of the team.
3. Assign Tasks to Subordinates to Enhance Training
One of the best ways to learn anything is to teach it. Giving assignments to subordinates to teach pieces of combat training will get them more motivated and also help them learn the material they are teaching. Often times with turn over rates there are basic tasks that the veterans in the unit will gloss over but the green recruits haven’t yet mastered. Getting others to teach lessons will increase engagement of the other on the training team and will solidify combat skills training.
2. Use Video
Whenever possible use video to reinforce training so you have a solid take away from the course. Sometimes the best way to correct errors is to see from a third person perspective what the issue is. Video also makes it black and white where the problems are so there is no debate about the issue. Video can also be used to reinforce good technique or tactics which will help develop confidence. When combined with an after action review video can leverage training time greatly.
1. Learn to Say “I don’t know”
In a combat training environment encourage discussion and tell other when you aren’t sure of the answers but, once asked it is important that you find the correct answer. Getting proficient at finding the correct answers will develop the most experienced combat trainer. Make the gathering of the reference material part of your expectation for your self. By being approachable for questions you develop your leadership to your peers and subordinate. Besides nothing is more annoying than a know it all.