FORT BENNING, Ga: An advanced rifle marksmanship concept developed at Fort Benning based on “lessons learned” in Iraq and Afghanistan might be instituted across all Army training centers later this year, officials said.
Col. Terry Sellers, operations officer for the Maneuver Center of Excellence, said Combat Familiarization Fire, or ARM 6, has not been formally added to the Army program of instruction, but that could happen around May as part of an overall POI review. New lesson plans are being drafted for the marksmanship field manual to include the CFF version standardized here.
“Some leaders have been taking different variations of this initiative and philosophy to operational units elsewhere for the past year-and-a-half,” he said. “The goal is to make it one standard for all the training centers … A lot of people want to help make the strategy better, but we’re making sure the formal lesson plans match what’s being done.”
CFF is the culmination of a Soldier’s marksmanship training from basic to advanced, said Capt. Ron Reed, the 198th Infantry Brigade’s operations officer. For about a year, it’s been taught to infantry Soldiers in one-station unit training and basic training with the 198th and 192nd Infantry brigades.
“It was implemented in response to lessons learned in theater,” Reed said. “It’s intended to give a realistic experience for a Soldier deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan … (Soldiers) learn the fundamentals and apply them. They are thinking about their next firing position, how many rounds they have to fire and time management under the stress factor of a full-combat load. Plus, the training factors in the weapon malfunction.”
Within the program, Soldiers fire from behind barriers at pop-up targets 50 to 300 meters away, Reed said. They have 30 rounds, and a dummy round is inserted into each of the three magazines to simulate a malfunction. Shooters must hit 16 of 26 targets.
In normal rifle qualification, Soldiers fire from a known distance in various predetermined positions. During CFF, they qualify in full combat gear using the barriers to move to and from different points. The Soldiers also choose the position – prone, kneeling, sitting or standing – they want to fire from based on where the target appears.
Before CFF’s inception, basic trainees and infantry OSUT Soldiers were not exposed to advanced rifle marksmanship, said Staff Sgt. Adolfo Adame, a drill sergeant with D Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, which recently completed the training. They only had to go through M-4 qualifications.
“This style is much better because it’s what they’ll see in an urban environment like Afghanistan or Iraq,” Adame said. “It’s going to take more than one round to take down an individual that’s coming at them or shooting at them … Now, you got a thinking Soldier on the ground who understands, ‘I need some kind of cover to engage the enemy and not just stand out in the open and get hit.'”
Pvt. Brian Jackson of D Company said CFF was beneficial as he learned about the firing tactics used in combat.
“The drill sergeants are giving us a lot of knowledge about their experiences overseas. What we’re doing here is what it’s like … so I feel I’ll be prepared when I leave,” he said.
“The other firing experiences we had were getting us used to the weapons. Here, you’re actually having to take cover and pop up, with targets coming back up after firing.”
Sellers said CFF emphasizes improvisation while building agile, adaptable, flexible Soldiers. The strategy speeds their development ahead of a combat deployment by mixing complexities with existing standards, he said.
“We got feedback from the field in Iraq and Afghanistan that the training centers needed to do a better job training Soldiers so they can integrate immediately upon arrival and have some idea of what they’ll see in a combat environment,” Sellers said. “We’re now getting benefits from the confidence and competence of these kids being able to use their weapons more effectively.”