200 Rounds?

We’re reading the excellent Sua Sponte by the excellent Dick Couch, one of the most accurate and honest chroniclers of the training and operations of our Special Operations Forces. In case you didn’t know already, Sua Sponte, a repurposed legal term, is the motto of the Ranger Regiment. In this book, Couch documents the selection and training of Rangers as has never been done.

Couch, a decorated Vietnam SEAL officer, has written extensively about the SEALS and SF, and what he’s written has been excellent. The SOF units like him because he tells the truth and observes OPSEC when he writes about him. The JSOC guys like Dick because he’s willing not to write about them, which is how they like it.

This immediate post comes about because of something one of the young privates in RASP (an important phase of Ranger selection) told Couch: of his OSUT (basic and advanced infantry training) class, at least a half dozen guys were already in Afghanistan, with no more prep than the rounds they’d fired on the flat and pop-up ranges in OSUT.

Per the private: under 200 rounds. “That’s scary,” he told Couch.

Yeah, it is.

When you load up for patrol, you carry more ammo than that.

The Rangers have always been, especially since the Battalions stood up in 1974, Light Infantry Done Right. Going to combat with only a couple hundreds of rounds, shot on flat ranges against unrealistic stationary pop-up targets, is infantry done all wrong. But before someone suggests we simply raise all infantry to the Ranger standard, all we can say is, not that simple. Read Dick’s book.

Ranger only works with a voluntary troop base, and most of them fall by the wayside. Doing it right is incredibly costly by any measure of cost, and we can’t do it for many thousands. But we can surely give an infantryman more trigger time on his primary weapon, and thorough familiarity — not just a few familiarization rounds, and no mechanical training, the current standard —  with the several other weapons in the infantry platoon and company arms room.

And to those who say women are ready for infantry and ranger training (we’re lookin’ at you, GEN Odierno and your combat-shy simulacrum of a SMA), Read Dick’s book.


6 thoughts on “200 Rounds?

  1. Medic09

    Your second to last paragraph says it well. I would add the recruits need to get to know their gear in the field before being sent out to the real thing. Spending a few months working with your gear in the field and weather helps eliminate surprises later. During five and half months of recruit training (sounds like probably the American basic and advanced combined?) our fellows lived in the field most of the time after the first two weeks. Shooting was done in all sorts of terrain, and under simulated patrol, ambush, and combat situations. Everyone had to show a certain minimum proficiency with all the weapons commonly used (and even an uncommon French bazooka for some unknown reason…); and be fairly expert with the primary Galil and secondary M-16. And one had to have a minimum familiarity with group equipment like the radio. (My young neighbor who is now in Givati was surprised to hear that we had only one Tadiran backpack-size radio for the whole squad. They now all have personal radios and headsets.)

    1. Hognose Post author

      Maybe the IDF had a lot of French bazooka rounds. (I keep wanting to say “Blindicide,” but I think that was a Belgian Bazooka. They’re all over the world in staggering quantities for some reason). From the 1950s to the mid-60s France was Israel’s arms locker. No small arms though (perhaps because French small arms were quirky… orin some cases (AAT-52), bad). By the seventies and eighties the French stuff had been used up, but it once included many AMX-13 tanks and Mirage and Mystère jets. Little known weapons fact: the 75mm gun on the AMX-13 was essentially the same gun as on the Wehrmacht’s Panther tank and later models of the Panzer IV. Israel captured some Panzer IVs in the Golan Heights, not entirely sure how the Syrians came by them.

      After 1973, both US and Soviet weapons got a boost in the region. The performance of American jets and tanks, and Russian SAMs and ATGMs, led to more sales. Funny thing, I don’t think the IDF wanted US tanks but when the war got rolling we were the only guys able to deliver.

      In the 70s and 80s American troops considered the Israelis to be serious hard cases, and wanted to emulate them. We admired the ’56, ’67 and ’73 operations, read Israeli officers’ books with highlighter in hand, sent our fledgling CT guys to learn from Sayeret Matkal. What changed that? Probably the long nightmare of Operation Peace in Galilee — it showed that even those tough Jews could be hosed by bad leadership. Also, relations between the Israelis and their sponsored militia in Lebanon, and the US Marines there in 1982, were quite poor. Also, that poltroon Pollard didn’t help. He and the idiot that ran him seriously damaged US-Israeli relations (and he continues to do so from his cell). Many Israelis have been informed that he did it out of Jewish fellow feeling, but he did it for money. He only went to the Israelis after the Russians and Chinese blew him off. (Dunno about the Chinese, but Ivan thought he was a dangle from our CI folks. We can only wish they were that bold). Pollard became more religious in prison. If you can trust a traitor’s sincerity….

  2. Mike

    The problem with Infantry OSUT insofar as getting them near a reasonable standard is the trainee to cadre ratio, range limitations put in place after a round from one range conducting CQM hit a trainee on another range, and money. When you’ve got 12 Drills authorized on your TDA but feel lucky to have 10 assigned and 8 actually present for duty, you are spread kinda thin. If we had one cadre on the firing line for every 4 students and we didn’t have multiple firing orders to get through training between the time allowed to go hot and when trans arrives…more could get done. Each company only has ONE day of CQM alloted by the POI, and it is VERY restrictive. When you’ve only got 5 Drills on the line and they each are supervising 10 or more, what level of proficiency do you really think those trainees are going to achieve? Years ago when I was still a DS, I advocated going to a 20 week training cycle for OSUT so we could give them better training. At the time the Infantry School was standing up new companies in portable buildings for barracks to meet the demand so there was no way it was going to happen.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Like so many things the Army seems to be doing “wrong,” it turns out to come down to resources and resource allocation. Thanks for the comment, Mike. Never thought about how it looked from the standpoint of the NCOs pushing troops. You’ll get a kick out of this: I joined the Army simply to do one hitch and get some college money. A couple of drill sergeants made a lasting impression on a kid who needed some direction in life. And from there on, I just got into it.

      Of course, lots of changes in OSUT in last 30-odd years. Lots of them in last five, really. Less time on BS, more time on real combat skills these soldiers will need. Thanks for doing your part.

  3. Xavier

    In 2010, we shot closer to, if not more than 1000 rounds at Infantry OSUT, IIRC. In addition to BRM, following got about 80-160 rounds each: night familiarization, barrier and off hand, stress shoot, reflexive fire, and a buddy team live fire. My guess is that this will change back after the budget cuts start to hit, if it has not already.

    1. Hognose Post author

      It would be a mistake to cut back, but it may be impossible not to. I did a non combat arms basic training in the 1970s and we shot qualification, a “night qualification” fired in the daytime with vision-limiting goggles, “NBC qualification” aka “how jeezly hard it is to hit anything with the M17 mack on,” and a little bit of familiarization fire. I think we all got to shoot 6 rounds out of an M60. Infantry guys got little more.

      The secret to superior combat performance has always been realistic combat training.

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