US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

A drone-killing, directed energy weapon prototype is now in the hands of Marines. The Compact Laser Weapons System — or CLaWS — is the first ground-based laser approved by the Department of Defense for use by warfighters on the ground.

“This was all in response to a need for counter unmanned aerial systems to take down drones,” said Don Kelley, program manager for Ground Based Air Defense at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We developed a CLaWS prototype for Marines to use and evaluate.”

In recent years, the Defense department has assessed directed energy weapons — more commonly known as “lasers” — as an affordable alternative to traditional firepower to keep enemy drones from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground.


CLaWS is not intended to be a standalone system for Marines to use to counter enemy drones. Rather, if the prototype continues to do well in the current research and development phase, it will serve as a component to an overall system used to counter drones.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

“We’re providing CLaWS to Marines as a rapid prototype for evaluation,” Kelley said. “Depending on the results, CLaWS could become part of a larger capability set.”

Rapid prototyping, rapid delivery

The GBAD program, managed within the portfolio of PEO Land Systems procured the CLaWS prototype through the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium — or DOTC — which was commissioned by the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to foster collaboration between government, industry and academia regarding ordnance technology development and prototyping.

“The typical acquisition timeline can be lengthy,” said Lt. Col. Ho Lee, product manager for GBAD Future Weapons Systems at PEO Land Systems. “But this project, from start to finish — from when we awarded the DOTC contract, to getting all the integration complete, all the testing complete, getting the Marines trained, and getting the systems ready to deploy — took about one year.”

From a production standpoint, Lee said that the program office and its partners integrated various commercial items to create CLaWS.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“We’ve been doing rapid prototyping, rapid delivery,” said Lee. “With this and a lot of the other efforts we are doing, we are using items currently available and integrating them to meet a capability. Little development, if any, went into this.”

Leveraging expertise for increased lethality

Obtaining the green-light to deliver and deploy CLaWS requires a bit more finesse, which is why PM GBAD leveraged DoD interagency partnerships to fulfill the need.

The operational use of new laser weapons, such as CLaWS, requires approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as it involves various factors such as legal reviews, concepts of employment, rules of engagement, tactics, potential collateral damage and human effects, proposed public affairs guidance and other relevant information.

“This program lives and dies with the leveraging of expertise and resources with others,” said Kelley. “It’s about getting these capabilities quickly into the hands of Marines and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

Move fast and laser things

As Marines evaluate the CLaWS systems over the next few months, the GBAD program office already has their next target in mind: upgrading it.

Depending on the results, the program office says it could incorporate the CLaWS into other fixed-site and mobile C-UAS defeat capabilities.

“What’s interesting about CLaWS for the Marine Corps is, usually for things like this, we’re on the back end,” said Lee. “With this one, we’re actually in front. Everybody is watching closely to see what’s going to happen.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey has to make its biggest decision since joining NATO

Turkey has always been at the intersection of two different worlds, bridging the gap where Europe meets Asia, where East meets West, and where many cultures historically clashed. During the Cold War, it was in Muslim Turkey’s interest to become a NATO ally. It had remained firmly in the NATO sphere until recently. Now the U.S. is giving the Turkish government an ultimatum.


US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Guess why.

Within the next two weeks the Turkish government has to decide whether it will maintain its complete alliance with NATO partners and go all-in with the F-35 or risk a severe penalty and buy Russia’s S-400 missile system. The Turkish government has already inked a deal to buy Russia’s missile defense system, which would remove them from eligibility to buy the 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters it was promised – while facing the possibility of U.S. sanctions and other NATO fallout.

The U.S. Department of State gave Turkey until the first week of June to make the call.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

Russia called Washington’s warning an “ultimatum,” and condemned the threat of sanctions as an attempt to strong-arm Ankara into buying Raytheon’s Patriot batteries and Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter. Turkey agreed to pay .5 billion for the S-400 system, one of the most advanced defense systems in the world. Turkey is also one of the manufacturing partners for the world’s most advanced fighter. But Turkey is already building the infrastructure for the S-400.

No one has stated exactly what the economic and military consequences for Turkey will be if they fail to reject the S-400.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran tries to blame U.S. for horrible terror attack

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley rebuked comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that blamed US support for a terror attack on a military parade Sept. 22, 2018, that killed 25 people and wounded 60.

Haley waved off Rouhani’s condemnation of America, and said in the aftermath of the attack, “he needs to look at his own home base.”

“The Iranian people are protesting,” Haley said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sept. 23, 2018. “Every ounce of money that goes into Iran goes to his military. He has oppressed his people for a long time.”


Haley continued: “He can blame us all he wants, but the thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”

Rouhani lashed out at America’s support for mercenary countries in the Persian Gulf, saying it helps to “instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose relevant sanctions crippled the economy and drew ire from leadership, Haley said.

“They don’t like the fact that we’ve called them out,” Haley said. “We have called them out for ballistic missile testing. We’ve called them out for their support of terrorism. We’ve called them out for their arms sales. And they don’t like it.”

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Despite the tensions, Haley contradicted Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani‘s claims from a day earlier the US was seeking a regime change and promised Trump would remain strict with Iranian leadership.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted immediately after the attack Sept. 23, 2018, to blame regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained armed and paid” by foreign powers, raising tensions in the region amid the unclear future of Tehran’s nuclear deal.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter Sept. 23, 2018.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to “Fox News Sunday” before Rouhani’s statement, calling Zarif’s comments “an enormous mistake.”

“The loss of innocent life is tragic, and I wish Zarif would focus on keeping his own people secure rather than causing insecurity around the world,” Pompeo said.

Haley said the September 2018 United Nations General Assembly would be a chance for countries to sort out tension, but Trump isn’t planning on a meeting with Iranian leadership, as Rouhani “has to stop all of his bad behavior before the president’s going to think he’s serious about wanting to talk.”

Haley added: “There is no love for Iran here in the United States, and there’s no love for the United States in Iran.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Let’s talk about why a quarter of Singapore’s air force is based in the US

The Republic of Singapore Air Force is one of the world’s most modern air forces. It is also very large (100 combat planes) compared to the size of the country (276 square miles – less than a quarter of the area of Rhode Island). One could wonder how they fit all their planes in there?


The answer is, they don’t. In fact, about a quarter of Singapore’s primary combat jets, a total of 40 F-15SG Strike Eagles and 60 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, aren’t based in Singapore at all. They’re in the United States.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
A F-15SG with the 428th Fighter Training Squadron. (USAF photo)

You’ll find ten of Singapore’s F-15SGs at Mountain Home Air Force Base, the home of the 366th Fighter Wing (which operates F-15E Strike Eagles). They are assigned to the 428th Fighter Training Squadron.

Fourteen of Singapore’s F-16C/D fighters are at Luke Air Force Base, the home of the 56th Fighter Wing, which handles training for not only the F-16, but for the F-35. They are assigned to the 425th Fighter Training Squadron.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
A Singaporean F-16D Fighting Falcon with the 425th Fighter Training Squadron. (USAF photo)

So, why is roughly one-fourth of Singapore’s combat aircraft inventory stationed across the Pacific Ocean, well over 8,500 miles away? Well, the answer is Singapore’s small size, and its poor geography. Singapore is really an island nation pushed smack dab between Malaysia and Indonesia, and its airspace is less than six miles across.

One thing you need for flight training, though, is space, and a lot of it. This is especially true with high-performance fighters like the F-15SG and F-16C/D.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Map of Singapore, showing just how little airspace there is for training. (CIA map)

Transport helicopter pilots and basic flight training are done in Australia, where the trainees, it is safe to assume, can guzzle all the Foster’s they want. Jet training for the Singaporean Air Force is done in France. Oh, and eight of Singapore’s 17 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters are based near Tucson, Arizona.

In essence, Singaporean flight trainees get to see a lot of the world before they join a front-line unit. Not a bad way to enter service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 quick tips sergeants wished their new troops knew

Ah, the new soldier. A blessing for the command and an absolute nightmare for the first-line supervisor. You don’t know if they’re about to blow a few paychecks worth of money on strippers, salvia, or an overpriced Camaro. Worse, they could be the kind to hit on local girls and accidentally stumble into the first sergeant’s daughter. Here’s what the sergeant wishes the new kids would know before they even showed up:


US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
It’s a Mustang. Try to look at it without buying one. At least for the duration of the article. (Installation Management Command, Mr. Stephen Baack)

 

Seriously, don’t buy the car

OMG, you have a bonus check, and a few paychecks and so many people want to loan you money against your guaranteed government paycheck (unless you are in the Coast Guard, and then it’s mostly guaranteed but not totally, right?).

But you can Uber for a week or two and wait to buy a car you actually like at a decent price instead of getting the first Camaro you can see on the lot.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Don’t care if you’re on Tinder or Grindr, just please do like, a day of due diligence before hopping in the sheets with ’em. (U.S. Army Amy Walker)

 

Really, you don’t need to get laid right away

Yeah, it’s been a long time since you got some. Unless, of course, you were one of the folks hooking up with randos behind the port-a-potties at basic training during blue phase which, ew, gross. You need to get checked out.

If you can get some on your first week at a new duty base, congrats. If you happened to get some back home during leave, good work, but don’t jump through a bunch of stupid hoops to get a new notch in your belt here the first week. Feel free to take a couple of weeks to get the lay of the land, find out who’s likely healthy and who is or isn’t a good idea for a partner.

Stumbling into the first dark room you can find is a good way to trigger IEDs, not a good way to enjoy yourself.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Please don’t let that be a mug of vodka. I mean, I know the dude in the photo is a sergeant and is experienced enough to handle it, but still. (For the record, it’s a water guy holding a mug of water.) (U.S. Army Spc. Aaron Goode)

 

Drink in moderation

Yeah! You can finally drink again! Time to —!

No. Just no. Go get a couple of beers and sip on them. New soldiers drinking until they asphyxiate on their own vomit is the stupidest of cliches. Get drunk. Enjoy it. Get tipsy. Fall over once or twice.

Just don’t drive, and don’t keep drinking until you fall over a balcony. Please. Your NCO support channel has their own stuff to do this weekend that doesn’t include talking to the MPs about your untimely demise.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Yeah, we weren’t gonna go out and take photos of signs outside the nearest base, so here’s a photo of a soldier who still carries coins in her pocket for some reason. (U.S. Army Spc. Samuel Keenan)

 

Avoid literally any place that advertises to you

Don’t care if it says “We accept junior enlisted,” “Finance E-1 and up,” “All ranks welcome” — if it advertises to the military, you shouldn’t be there. Those signs are basically the equivalent of a “Free Candy” sign on the side of a van, and you’re the unsuspecting child.

Please, don’t get in the van.

If (s)he has a military dependent ID, (s)he’s not for you

It does not matter how many times he or she bats their eyes at you, flexes their pecks, or makes obscene gestures with their mouth while pointing at your belt, you are not to engage with them if there is a single sign that they might be the child of a military member or married to one (especially married to one).

Just go find a local hottie…or maybe set up an online dating account.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Doesn’t even matter if your form isn’t perfect. Just do some d*mn sit-ups. (U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell)

 

Do like, four sit-ups every day

Yeah, you’re out of basic and AIT. Congratulations. But when your physical training drops to just the morning formations, there’s a chance that you’re going to start sucking every time you squeeze yourself into some overly tight PT shorts. So, please, for the love of all physical training regulations and military readiness, just do a couple of sit-ups every night before you nuzzle up to your PlayStation controller.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines volunteer as crossing guards for school children

U.S. Marines hit the streets in the local community [Chatan, Okinawa, Japan] to assist as crossing guards for Chatan Elementary School July 18, 2019.

Three Marines on camp guard duty volunteered their morning to serve as crossing guards near the elementary school in support of the recent safety campaign.

“Today I’m pretty much just helping the little kids cross the street to go to school,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.

Silva is currently serving camp duty on Camp Foster, Okinawa for the next twenty days.


“The reason I am at this spot particularly is because there is a hill to my right, and what I was told was that, the cars, they just come speeding up here and can’t really see the kids when they are crossing, so I’m just here making sure that the kids that do come here, cross safely .”
— Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group
US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)

The elementary school personnel and Marine volunteers made an effective team working together to ensure student safety.

“I volunteered myself for this duty, it is fun,” Silva also stated standing on a street corner helping children attend their second to last day of the school year.

School will resume in September 2019.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)

Silva went on to say that this duty has given him the best look into Okinawan culture.

“You get to see all the little kids, the local kids, you say hello to them and see how they interact with each other in the morning when they are tired and on their way to school.”

Marine volunteers participate in activities island-wide to enhance the relationship with the local community.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What the Army should keep in mind when crafting a new slogan

Well guys, the Army’s slogan of “Army Strong” has officially been put on the chopping block. It had a solid run between 2006 and now, but it’s time to close that chapter and move on to the next slogan.

“One of the major responses we get when we survey folks who don’t have experience with military service is strength, so we know the ‘Army Strong’ resonates… but I don’t think it tells the story, the full story of being a soldier,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey told defense reporters.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
With Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey’s record of doing logically better things for the Army, we’re all in favor.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

The U.S. Army has had a mixed bag of slogans, from the out-freaking-standing, like “Be All You Can Be” and “I Want You,” to that awkward, blue falcon-inspired “Army of One.” Using those guidelines and past experiences, let’s focus in on what makes a good recruiting slogan. For all practical purposes, the slogan should be on par with a commercial product’s brand — after all, both try to entice the public and leave a lasting impression.


First thing to look for is how well it will stick in someone’s head. The idea of any slogan, for recruitment or otherwise, is to build brand recognition. The Navy ran an ill-fated “A Global Force for Good” slogan back in 2009. It sounds polite and it puts the Navy in a positive light, but it’s not turning any heads — it’s simply literal.

Just hearing that, even in context, doesn’t make any random person think, “Oh! I should join the Navy!” Their response to selling America’s Navy better in the eyes of younger potential sailors? Simply, “America’s Navy.” That lasted a whole two years before going to the objectively better “Forged by the Sea.” The Army needs a slogan that is uniquely Army.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
It will also help if its something that won’t be used by other branches to mock us.
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

Audiences have been quick to ask, “why not go back to ‘Be All You Can Be?'” The fact is, there’s no way of knowing whether young adults today will share the same connection with it as older Army vets once did. Put bluntly, the new slogan isn’t meant to reenlist retirees, but those who lived by the words should still be proud to say them. So, the goal is to make the slogan resonate with today’s young adults without making something embarrassing years down the line.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
(U.S. Army)

Brevity is also the key to a great slogan. The Army isn’t looking for some tired, furniture-salesman jingle. Something short, sweet, and to the point. “Army Strong” was good for this — keeping a two-to-four-word limit is a must. These slogans are easier for audiences to remember. After all, leaving a lasting, positive image of the Army is the goal. Many of the greatest ad campaigns in history have all been short and direct.

A great slogan subconsciously tells people of the benefits of their brand. In the Army’s case, it’s the benefit of being a soldier. At their cores, that’s why “Be All You Can Be” and “Army Strong” worked. They tell potential recruits that enlisting will improve their lives — and just as importantly, that they’re missing out on something if they don’t enlist.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Because we can’t rely on a massive cultural shift to do the heavy lifting for us nowadays.
(U.S. Army)

Finally, the slogan should tell the truth of what it means to serve and should apply to all soldiers, from the beastly Special Forces operator to a regular training room clerk in the National Guard. Slogans like, “Be a Bad Mother F*cker” may grab eyeballs, but it isn’t exactly applicable.

Following all of these guidelines, the best slogan for convincing young adults who are thinking of enlisting is something along the lines of, “Become greater than yourself.” Simple, effective, true, and it’s a feeling that all soldiers feel when they serve — regardless of generation.

Only time will tell when the Army will adopt a new slogan. I wouldn’t be worried though. The bar is set at pretty low — just do better than “Army of One.”

Humor

11 hilarious Navy memes that are freaking spot on

In the military, we love to crack jokes at every branch’s expense — even our own. The comedic rivalry is real as it gets, but it’s always in good fun.


So, let’s use these memes to create as many humorous wounds as possible.

Related: 11 memes that perfectly capture life as a commo guy

1. When your level of saltiness is off the f*cking charts

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
We bet he’s got stories for days.

2. Old-school sailors have the best freaking stories about fist fights, drinking, and women — not necessarily in that order.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

3. Just when you thought Navy ships couldn’t get any more hardcore, they go and do this.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
If you think this is impressive, wait until you see what gun they fire on Sunday.

4. The level of his “boot” has officially gone overboard.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
$10 says he’ll get out after his first enlistment.

Also Read: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

5. This is what your recruiter conveniently left out of their pitch

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
You can’t win a war without a clean weatherdeck.

6. Every sailor’s career has a different origin story

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
At this rate, he’ll be a Rear Admiral (Upper Half) in no time.

7. You might want to head the restroom afterward and check your trousers for brown eggs

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Boot stress level: over 9000. (via navymemes.com)

8. The only thing that a hardworking sailor wants is to get off work on time and drink a beer.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

More: 11 Air Force memes that will make you laugh for hours

9. You can piss off a lot of people without repercussions, but a chief is not one of them.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Hide for as long as you can.

10. Lies, lies, and more lies… Okay, it’s kind of true.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Experiences may vary.

11. No one can ever outdo this dick joke. This aircrew won.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
(Image via Pop smoke)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this old biplane from the 1940s is still hanging around

There are some planes that hang onto service even though time and technology have long passed them by. One of these planes, which first flew in 1947, is something that could’ve once been considered state-of-the-art… in 1918.

And yet, somehow, this plane is still in service with militaries today. The Antonov An-2 Colt is, arguably, an outdated junk-heap. Even the UH-60 Black Hawk is faster than this fixed-wing plane (the Black Hawk has a top speed of 183 mph, the Colt maxes out at a paltry 160). Additionally, the An-2 can haul a dozen passengers while the UH-60 can, in some cases, carry 22. Can you say “outclassed?”


Only in terms of maximum range does the An-2 take an edge over the ubiquitous Black Hawk (it’s got a range of 525 miles, which is longer than UH-60’s 363). So, how has this plane survived so long?

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

This recognition drawing shows just how state of the art the An-2 is… for 1918.

(DOD)

As history has proved, there’s strength in numbers. This plane was in production for over 50 years with the Soviet Union, Poland, and Communist China. A production run that long was responsible for the creation of at least 18,000 airframes. No matter what you use them for, that staggering number of planes won’t be simply disappearing any time soon.

As you might have guessed by now, the An-2 is also very popular because it’s extremely cheap, especially second-hand (some are for sale for as little as ,170).

The last thing you’d expect from a cheap, fragile aircraft is a combat role — but over its long career, it’s seen plenty of action. This plane was used primarily by communist forces in the Korean War and Vietnam War. It also played the part of a makeshift bomber in the 1991 Croatian War for Independence.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

An-2s are getting upgrades – this An-2-100 has a turboprop engine.

(Doomych)

Like the famous C-47 Skytrain, the An-2 has been continually upgraded throughout its storied career to keep it flying for decades to come. Modern Colts make use of turboprop engines and composite wings.

Learn more about this very common (and somewhat antiquated) biplane cargo hauler in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uY0g9Fhcgk

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Firearms: Training solo versus training in groups

Firearms training presupposes a purpose or goal when we step out onto the range. While most would agree that training with your firearm is an essential part of improving skills; without a method to track your progress or reassess your goals, training turns quickly into recreation. There is no purpose beyond punching some holes in paper or seeing if that watermelon really does explode as it does on video. We’re not saying that it’s not fun. It just isn’t really training.

There’s an old saying, “You don’t win nothing for practice. You don’t win nothing without it.” Grammar aside, we agree. Practice means working on a skill. In any physical endeavor, there is no substitute for putting in reps. The arena of use doesn’t matter, be it self-defense, hunting, or competition. The path from competence to proficiency to mastery is one that’s sometimes solitary and sometimes shared.

Whether training by yourself, with a partner, or as part of a class each dynamic has benefits and drawbacks. But each has a place in skill developing.


US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media

Take a Class

Taking a course requires a commitment of time and money. Classes offer students a predetermined focus or theme revolving around a specific skill, and there are a multitude of different types of classes available.However, not all courses are created equal.

So you need to do some research to answer some basic questions. Is the individual/company providing the course reputable? Have they been around for a while? Are the reviews for the course good? Is the class size reasonable for the skill(s) being taught?

We recently took a defensive handgun class with Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics. Sage Dynamics was founded in 2012, and the reviews for the defensive handgun course were positive. The course had 18 participants, was taught over two days, and the participants were a mix of law enforcement and civilians.

Perhaps the defining element of the class was Cowan’s discussion of not just how something is done, but why it’s done. Knowing how to do something is important, but knowing why something is done in a certain way is vital when building skills because it defines a skill’s application. Real-life situations are not neat. Bad guys don’t just stand there, innocents are almost always involved, and only God knows what they’re going to do.

There are some drawbacks to training classes. They tend to be costly and don’t always fit your schedule. Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a training center with open enrollment classes, such as Gunsite or the Sig Academy, or a city where classes are often hosted, you’ll have to travel. Now, that means road tripping or booking flights and arranging lodging. Then there’s the added hassle of flying with guns and ammunition. Class size has a significant impact on the quality of the instruction. If there are too many participants, the likelihood of getting significant one-on-one time with the instructor goes down.

Or, if your skill level happens to fall in the middle of the ol’ bell curve, and you’re not outspoken, you may be easily overlooked. There’s also the harsh reality that simply taking a class, even with all the time and money invested, will not make you a better a shooter — however, this is one of the most important aspects of taking a class, learning how to improve your abilities on your own or with a buddy. It’ll simply give you the tools to pursue being a better shooter.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media

Instructor skill set is critical. The ability of the instructor to execute his/her own training philosophy and required skills will make or break the class. We’re not saying the instructor must be former military, law enforcement, a national champion, or world-renowned hunter. There are many excellent shooters who are simply not excellent teachers. On the flip side, an instructor must be able to walk their talk. The best firearm instructors have the skills to execute what they teach.

Some group settings come with interesting twists. All students in RECOIL’s own Summit in the Sand training event, held in fall of 2017, were provided SIG P320 X5 pistols and ammunition for the class. Students got to run drills with an unfamiliar gun that separated them from the baggage they normally brought to the range with their own pistols. Aside from taking you slightly out of your element, running something strange also gives you a different perspective on your own gear, helping inform future gear purchases.

Using the P320 X5s, students either walked away with a greater appreciation for the guns they normally ran, or left scratching their chin and wondering if maybe it was time to go shopping for a new EDC.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media

Training with a buddy

Training with a partner, friend, family member, or mentor is another good way to advance your training agenda. It provides a free(-ish) and flexible alternative to training in a group setting. You’ve got to provide your own targetry, but paper is cheap and steel lasts a long time, as does a rubber dummy. And going to the range with a partner is less of a scheduling challenge than wrapping your schedule around a class and skips the pain of planning and traveling, or telling the significant other you’re going to miss your in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary party.

The variables that loom large are the commitment to your training goals, the skills to practice, to what degree they are practiced, and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) of your partner.

If your partner’s KSAs are less than yours, you may wind up in a case of the not knowing what you don’t know, which can derail your progress. If your shot group looks like you’re using a shotgun while combatting a severe case of hiccups and your buddy looks you in the eye and tells you your group is, “a bit wild,” that may be an accurate statement, but it won’t help you correct the problem. He or she may dig deep and say something profound like, “It seems your sight alignment is off.” That’s a slightly more helpful suggestion, but still falls short of correcting the problem. Yet shooting with someone of lesser skills is not without benefit.

You might notice an error in how they shoot and realize it’s a common problem. That realization hopefully puts you on the path to correcting the problem. And, if you’re at all competitive, training with a partner will motivate you both to a higher level of performance as you practice. Bragging rights do matter, especially if there’s a cigar or case of beer on the line when it’s all said and done.

While training with a partner of like abilities can be good, it shares some of the same pitfalls as training with someone of lesser ability. Most notably, not knowing what you don’t know. This lack of knowledge makes progress on your training goal a hit-or-miss proposition if you find yourself struggling. So when you hit that point of failure neither of you really knows how to solve the problem. The temptation at this point is to simply switch to a drill you’re more comfortable with.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media

Shooting with someone of like abilities helps in reinforcing good habits, as your buddy is likely to call you out when you get sloppy. Your partner is able to give you more accurate feedback, such as telling you that you’re pushing forward on the gun as you pull the trigger. This is helpful, but feedback without instruction doesn’t give you the tools to correct the problem.

The third option, training with someone who is significantly better than you, eliminates the most glaring of problems noted above. They’ll know what you don’t. They’ll be able to not only tell you what you are doing wrong, but help you correct the error. They can take you to the point of failure and give you tools to move past it.

They can help you refine your training goal and give you the practice scenarios to aid in achieving the desired outcome. They can teach you how to self-diagnose problems. There is the normally unspoken motivation to shoot as well they do along with the awareness that, in most cases, it is possible.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Photos by Jay Canter and Muzzle Flash Media

Flying solo

Training by yourself is the most flexible way to train. You decide when, where, and what skills you’re going to practice and how many rounds you’re going to shoot. It can be most relaxing, as you’re not comparing yourself to — or being judged by someone. Yet, this requires the most self-discipline. Without it, your practice session can quickly go from a bona fide training day to just blowing up household objects found on the range.

The major failing, again, is not knowing what you don’t know. Unless you’ve reached the level of being able to self-diagnose, it’s difficult to move past the point of failure. There is also the common tendency of practicing what we’re already good at. Fun? Yes, but fun alone isn’t much help in advancing your overall training agenda.

We don’t get better by wishing. Wanting something doesn’t make it happen. There are many avenues of training and some are inherently better than others. We suggest training with someone whose abilities outmatch your own or paying to learn from bona fide professionals are the most efficient ways to go — and combining the two is even better. That being said, it’s not the only way.

Editor’s Note: The Best of Both Worlds

An alternate, and highly beneficial form of group training is competition. While matches don’t provide much opportunity for one-on-one remedial instruction, they do offer a unique chance to pressure test the skills you’ve worked so hard to cultivate through the other methods listed by Kris in his article. Shooting unfamiliar courses of fire among a group of shooters all vying for status under time limit adds a whole slew of stressors that are all excellent tools for determining just how deeply you’ve been able to program your shooting skills.

In RECOIL’s Summit in the Sand training event, we gave students one day of formal instruction followed by one-day competition that allowed attendees to check their learning progress against their peers. The P320 X5 gave students a unique tool to gain experience. Even though the P320 was designed from the ground up as a duty pistol, the X5 is a highly refined version of that template optimized for speed and efficiency on the competition circuit, showcasing a cross-pollination of ideal features from both the tactical and competition worlds.

Ammunition for Summit in the Sand was also provided by SIG. In addition to the FMJ range ammo we used, SIG also has the corresponding V-Crown line of defensive hollow point ammo. Being able to train with the same brand of ammo you carry eliminates one more variable between training and carry.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first American to die in combat in Afghanistan after 9/11

Among the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks were members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s shadowy Special Activities Division, along with elite special operations personnel from the US military’s various branches.


US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Mike Spann during operations in Afghanistan in 2001. (Photo from CIA)

Tragically, it would be one of the CIA’s Special Operations Group – the armed paramilitary branch of the SAD – who would be the first to lay down his life in the War on Terror, becoming the first American casualty in Afghanistan.

In November 2001, Johnny “Mike” Spann, an SOG operative, found himself at Qala-i-Jangi, a century-old fortress positioned near Mazar-i-Sharif, where hundreds of Taliban fighters were held prisoner by Afghan Northern Alliance militia, having been captured during the Siege of Kunduz that same month.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers

Spann was a graduate of Auburn University and a former Marine, having served six years as an artillery officer before being recruited to the CIA in 1999. He later went on to join the SAD’s SOG soon afterwards, delving deeper into the world of black operations.

The CIA tasked Spann and another officer – an Uzbek language specialist – with interrogating the captives to glean intelligence on Taliban and Al Qaeda activity. The prisoners, as one might expect, were extremely uncooperative, and were additionally very poorly screened by their Afghan captors.

In a matter of minutes, the situation devolved into chaos.

A number of the prisoners rebelled against their captors, pulling out hidden hand grenades and detonating them in suicide attacks. Prisoners crowded around Spann during his questioning session began lunging at the SOG officer.

Spann and a fellow CIA operative immediately brought their guns to bear – the former pulling a pistol, and the latter grabbing an AK-47 from a Northern Alliance guard. In the blink of an eye, Spann was mobbed from all sides and disappeared under a mass of Taliban fighters, while his colleague attempted to make his way to his fallen comrade.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Northern Alliance troops in 2001 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Reports estimate that Spann put down anywhere between three to seven enemy fighters with his pistol, before succumbing to the onslaught. The remaining CIA officer systematically dropped more Taliban fighters who had, by now, killed a number of Northern Alliance troops and took possession of their weapons, before running over to warn Red Cross and other civilian workers in the area to escape.

After contacting US diplomatic services in Uzbekistan, a quick reaction force consisting of American and British special forces hailing from Task Force Dagger was assembled and deployed to the area. The QRF established contact with the sole remaining CIA agent, while digging in for a long fight.

American fighter aircraft were directed to drop smart bombs on the fortress, while a pair of AC-130 Spectre gunships, operating under the cover of night, arrived on station, pounding the resistance into submission with concentrated fire.

After a two-day siege, the fort was retaken and most of rebels had escaped to the fort’s main dungeon.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
A memorial to Spann, built at Qala-i-Jangi (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The prisoners holed up in the dungeon finally surrendered after it was flooded with cold dirty irrigation water from nearby fields. Spann’s body was recovered with care in the aftermath of the battle, having found to be booby trapped by Taliban fighters. Of the 300-500 Taliban prisoners taken captive at the fortress, only 86 were recaptured alive.

Spann’s remains were repatriated to the US , and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star – equivalent to a Silver Star – and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

Today, a memorial still stands today at Qala-i-Jangi, commemorating Spann – the first American casualty in Afghanistan post-9/11.

Articles

This is what the new VA chief thinks about using medical marijuana to treat PTSD

On May 31, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he is open to expanding the use of medical marijuana to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.


Shulkin said that although federal laws would limit the ability to use marijuana, he said it could be possible to take action in states where medicinal marijuana is legal.

“There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin said during a press conference. “Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans … I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law.”

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
David Shulkin (right) seeks major VA hospital reform. (DoD Photo by Megan Garcia)

The head of the VA also said the agency he oversees is in a “critical condition,” likening the veterans’ healthcare provider to a patient in bad health.

Shulkin, a doctor appointed by former President Barack Obama, said patients wait too long for services from VA hospitals and government bureaucracy prevents the agency from firing employees who perform poorly. The VA oversees the care for more than 9 million veterans.

“I’m a doctor and I like to diagnose things, assess them, and treat them,” Shulkin said. “Though we are taking immediate and decisive steps stabilizing the organization … we are still in critical condition and require intensive care.”

“As you know, many of these challenges have been decades in building,” Shulkin added.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
Shulkin aims to improve medical services for our nation’s veterans. DoD Photo by Greg Vojtko.

In reference to the VA’s inability to fire employees quickly, Shulkin said “our accountability processes are clearly broken.”

In one example, it took the agency more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a veteran.

Shulkin said now is the time to face the VA’s challenges and address them “head on.”

Articles

Engine falls off Air Force B-52 bomber while in flight

One of the eight engines powering a Boeing B-52 bomber flying over Minot Air Force Base on Wednesday quite literally fell right off the aircraft.


The unarmed aircraft, which was on a training flight at the North Dakota base, landed safely and none of the crew were injured, an Air Force spokesman told Defense News.

The service has already initiated an investigation into what went wrong. All crew members of a B-52 that crashed in May 2016 escaped without injury, though a 2008 crash killed all six crew members on board.

US Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong

The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber jet aircraft powered by eight Pratt Whitney engines. It was first introduced in 1955, though it has continually been upgraded and maintained.

The Air Force has just over 75 B-52s still in service today, which are slated to last into 2040, according to Defense News.

The B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber is expected to replace the aging B-52 fleet once it’s introduced some time in the mid-2020s.

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