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Equipment versus training

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
The SA80 replacement thread has thrown up some of the often-repeated concerns/opinions about musketry and training.

The line from the British Army for many years - certainly through the 70s and 80s when some equipment was seen as lacking - was that training and skill-at-arms overcame the deficiencies.

Inevitably, a new personal weapon thread is always going to pull in the kit tarts, and the Top Trumps and Google merchants.

But, I'll borrow this from @napier in reference to one of the officers he knew:
I worked with said officer on the FIST trials, where he proved comprehensively - through coaching junior commanders - that applying appropriate fire control and marksmanship principles had a greater impact on fire effect than gucci sights, LRFs, etc.
...which set me thinking.

Most of the clothing I was issued with in the mid-80s would have been readily recognisable to those from the mid-40s. Body armour was scarce, iron sights the norm, Personal Role Radio was science fiction.

In some respects, we're forced to step up to the plate equipment-wise. The modern battlefield needs better 24-hour awareness, sight systems and power sources have been miniaturised and come down in cost to a point where distribution is near-universal - and should be. Clothing has come on leaps and bounds, to the point that suffering personally in extreme weather almost requires a positive will.

All positive stuff and I think to not do it would be a dereliction in and of itself.

On the one hand, we have continuing comments from some on here about the under-utilisation of ranges, and poor marksmanship. On the other, we have the counter-assertions that the British Army post-Afghanistan had honed small-unit tactics to a fine point, and that we have a senior NCO cadre with solid first-hand experience of What Works.

So: the crux of it: are we trapped in an ARRSE echo chamber? Are we over-compensating or even over-emphasising equipment to the detriment of, or because of the shortcomings of, the (wo)man? Are lesson learned - once again - being wilfully discarded once 'proper’ peacetime soldiering comes around? Is it as bad as we think it is? Or are some of us, with the comfort of the distance of years, being rather too smug and dismissing the continued (comparative) excellence of the individual?

Discuss...
 
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Circa 2009, one of the complaints I often heard from some troops, who were on their second or third tours, was that there were some NCO’s with no operational experience taking them on exercise and conducting poor training.
 
Given a fixed number of hours in a day, and the fact that users have to be at least minimally trained in using each item of equipment issued, something will always be kicked into the " too difficult" pile, while easy to organise stuff takes priority.
Organise a range day, or go for a run?
Train everybody one step higher than necessary in using the latest noddy gizmo, radio, ecm, vehicle recovery, hiab, winching, the list is endless.
But peacetime soldiering would rather have blokes looking busy than use their time more productively.
 
An observer once wry observed that the only person who never had any meaningful say in the procurement and selection of his equipment was the end user.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Given a fixed number of hours in a day, and the fact that users have to be at least minimally trained in using each item of equipment issued, something will always be kicked into the " too difficult" pile, while easy to organise stuff takes priority.
Organise a range day, or go for a run?
Train everybody one step higher than necessary in using the latest noddy gizmo, radio, ecm, vehicle recovery, hiab, winching, the list is endless.
But peacetime soldiering would rather have blokes looking busy than use their time more productively.
Which is why I suggested that the push comes back from the range side rather than the unit looking to book time.

"We expect you at this time" with unit commanders being expected to justify why they can't fill the allotted slot.
 

theoriginalphantom

MIA
Book Reviewer
In the early 90s the constant complaint in Field ambulances (later to become medical regiments) was the lack of medical training. If you'd wanted a (generally) very physically fit group of people with loads of patrolling skills, range time, NBC skills, navigation etc then we were the people to see.
Need a tented complex for your summer fete/mess function? Call the medics.
Need a site guard? Someone to work in your ******* stables? Ski instructor?
Group of waiters for your disbandment do?
3 AFA (other field ambulances were always available) is just down the road.
Medical training? Realistic scenario training? No, we shall go to vogelsang, we shall only take SLR and LMG and everyone will do infantry attacks.
As a result when it came to pre Granby training we were shit hot at everything but our trades.

It's not just about good kit and/or good training, it needs to be the right training at the right time for the right people with the right kit.
 

Tyk

LE
It's a universal truth that well skilled and trained people will succeed with indifferent kit by making the best of what they have where as the best gear in the hands of muppets leads to poor results. I've seen it in practice many times on projects and I'm sure most people have seen similar.
Gucci kit doesn't solve lack of skill, but there is a minimum level of good enough on the kit front or failure is highly likely. There's also a minimum level of skill, discipline and motivation no matter how good the equipment.
The best demonstrations I can think of are the armed forces in the World Wars, Britain started both with a highly trained force and ended with adequately trained conscripts, but a core of skilled people made into NCO's and/or rotated back to training depots.
@stoatman has previously posted about the value to the military of marksmanship which paid off and it's true for the Navy as well, there are plenty of instances where RN pulled off stuff because they were highly skilled, but the equipment was iffy.
On the rifles for the army front if the SA80 is approaching or past the point of viability there are quite a few commercial off the shelf, well proven, reliable offerings which could equip them all at a reasonable cost. Britain no longer has a meaningful native small arms industry to design and build a replacement from scratch.
 
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Circa 2009, one of the complaints I often heard from some troops, who were on their second or third tours, was that there were some NCO’s with no operational experience taking them on exercise and conducting poor training.
It's a good point. My last tour (Kosovo in 99) was done with my parent unit, where overwhelmingly all the operational experience for the past 10 years firmly sat with the junior ranks. Most SNCO's had lasy done a tour with Granby.
To say it was a badly run mess would be an understatement. Not the job as such, but the way the troops were managed.
There was discussion here on ARRSE many years back about how lack of operational experence should not be a detriment to anyones career, but I do think that does need to be looked at a bit more critically.
It's all well and good having lots of 'trained' soldiers at manegemnt levels, but if they have little experience of what they are expected to do for 'real' then it does often have a negative effect I think.
Especially when they don't listen to advice from those junior to them, but with far more time on tours.
 
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Circa 2009, one of the complaints I often heard from some troops, who were on their second or third tours, was that there were some NCO’s with no operational experience taking them on exercise and conducting poor training.

And the flip side to that complaint - Is why are those complaining, who are on their 2nd / 3rd tours not JNCO's ?
 
In the early 90s the constant complaint in Field ambulances (later to become medical regiments) was the lack of medical training. If you'd wanted a (generally) very physically fit group of people with loads of patrolling skills, range time, NBC skills, navigation etc then we were the people to see.
Need a tented complex for your summer fete/mess function? Call the medics.
Need a site guard? Someone to work in your ******* stables? Ski instructor?
Group of waiters for your disbandment do?
3 AFA (other field ambulances were always available) is just down the road.
Medical training? Realistic scenario training? No, we shall go to vogelsang, we shall only take SLR and LMG and everyone will do infantry attacks.
As a result when it came to pre Granby training we were shit hot at everything but our trades.

It's not just about good kit and/or good training, it needs to be the right training at the right time for the right people with the right kit.
From 1985 to 90, my unit was twice tasked with supplying 'casualties' for 1AFA, Exercise Mini Mash, I think it was called.
It was a very realistic exercise in my opinion, and it included casevacs by helicopter and train, and I remember seeing German and US medics as well as TA flown in from UK.
As well as providing excellent training for our medics, it also made us aware of the high standard of 1 AFA personnel.
We also always had a medical unit attached whenever we we're on Soltau or Hohne.
Perhaps the end of the Cold War encouraged the bean counters to cut back on this kind of essential training?
 
Discuss...

He said although that was positive “as the character of conflict tilts to the cyber world”, it was imperative the “skills of independence” were not lost as graduates prepare for the future of warfighting.

Mr Ellwood called on the current “military curriculum” to reflect today’s partnership with the online world, whilst not forgetting lessons learnt by predecessors.


Technology is fantastic and has it's place in the Army - However, everything that the Army does, starts and needs to be mastered with the basics.

Without the basics - You have nothing.
 

lert

LE

Technology is fantastic and has it's place in the Army - However, everything that the Army does, starts and needs to be mastered with the basics.

Without the basics - You have nothing.
Well, yes and no I'd posit. Once upon a time, your basics were moving in line at the oblique and forming square.

I certainly don't disagree with the requirement for (regularly maintained) foundation military skills, but what those are should always be justifiable.
 
I've seen training dropped from multiple capability deliveries, generally bespoke. I've also seen generic trade training change, leaving the lads without the SQEP to support diminishing but live capabilities (look at heavy radar).
 
And the flip side to that complaint - Is why are those complaining, who are on their 2nd / 3rd tours not JNCO's ?

Some of them were and as such section Comds and 2ICs.
 
The front office staff flying you to your next holiday more than likely have the same lack of basic skills. Be very afraid.
 
Some of them were and as such section Comds and 2ICs.

No intention of having an argument - But that does not tally with comment I responded to

Circa 2009, one of the complaints I often heard from some troops, who were on their second or third tours, was that there were some NCO’s with no operational experience taking them on exercise and conducting poor training.

Troops - In the context of the above comment, I would take to read Pte Soldiers.
 
No intention of having an argument - But that does not tally with comment I responded to



Troops - In the context of the above comment, I would take to read Pte Soldiers.

I can‘t be held responsible for you incorrect assumptions.

Toms would cover Ptes.

JNCOs would cover, errrrrrrrrr JNCOs.

Troops catches all.
 
Every unit has an obsessive for something. Yeah, the PTIs mutter about fitness, and everyone back from Brecon has that glazed cult-member look for a while, but remember that Corporal who did his NBC Instructors' Course, and came back with a real hard-on for "proper" NBC training? Or the lucky sod who went of to STANOC, and came back telling us that our cam was shit and would get us all killed? Or the boring Gravelbelly who won't shut up about f***ing marksmanship, seems to think we need more tedium time on flat ranges?

The trick, IMHO, is to have enough of these obsessives for a wide range of skills, and to let each have their head in your training once in a while - not to sit back complacently, happy with unambitious training. No, you can't cover everything; but hopefully you can give everyone a chance to go "ooooh, never thought about it like that", so that we can all appreciate the depths of our ignorance across a range of subjects (me included). Bid people for the weird courses once in a while, develop your hobby horses.

Training has to be interesting. Doing the same, boring, training, in the same, boring, way, is just sh!t. Admit it, there were times when you did some decent training, and it was actually (dare I say it) fun. That exercise people still talked about, a year later; that course everyone raves about.

I joked about it once before, but as a young OPFOR I stopped a Company Attack in its tracks for several minutes by surrendering from behind a tree. Certain amount of swearing from the lead platoon. Another time, we planned a noddy infantry training task, where the real effort was on CASEVAC - but rather than "stretcher reaches CAP, well done, everyone respawn!" I asked the medics to show us how to actually get these bodies, on those stretchers, into the racks in the back of that shiny new Wolf ambulance. Certain amount of swearing.

Even had fun as a DS for unit training at Tin City in Lydd. Final serial of the day, having asked the (bored) medics whether the siren and lights on that wagon actually worked; the patrol commander suffers a casualty, drags them into cover, sends a quick report expecting a notional magic wand; range gates swung open, he gets an actual ambulance, lights, and music... certain amount of swearing.

Don't get me started on the indoor range. Night occupation of the position, and after a while the ambush lights go on, see how many hits you get on the targets in the killing area? Discovering that the extractor fan let in just enough light from the night sky, that we could fire SLR+IWS? Tank action drills, with plenty of 84mm subcalibre rounds? If the platoon left after a Tuesday night thinking "that beat the shit out of yet more IA drills in a classroom", then I was doing my job properly as a trainer.
 
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Circa 2009, one of the complaints I often heard from some troops, who were on their second or third tours, was that there were some NCO’s with no operational experience taking them on exercise and conducting poor training.
In my last major unit (post Silver Jubilee) one of the very few without a GSM was the RSM...
 

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