Yes, they learn the basics in Boot Camp and Basic Training. Yes, they’ll acquire a general understanding of their MOS while in advanced training. But that’s just it — bare-minimum knowledge. Don’t expect those under your command to be experts in everything straight out the gate. After all, if someone doesn’t know or understand a specific task relevant to their career, there’s no one to blame but you. This is the idea behind “hip pocket training.”
Sometime throughout the day, an NCO should give a class on a specific topic. No PowerPoint slides copied from someone else, no reading from a book — the NCO should be the subject matter expert in whatever they’re teaching. If not, there’s no shame in asking someone else who is to “assist” in training.
1. Weapons familiarity
Every grunt and every POG should know how to properly use their weapon system, not just “pull this here, it goes bang, and that thing over there drops.” They should know every inch of their weapon. What every piece does and how it works with other pieces. Troops should know how to properly maintain it and what to do if a malfunction occurs. There’s plenty more you can do other than dime drills.
If you don’t know what a dime drill is: lay in the prone position with a rifle and have someone place either a washer or a dime at the end of the barrel. The objective it to practice pulling the trigger without jerking the weapon to the left or right, but steadily enough to keep a constant grouping of shots.
(TacticsandArms | YouTube)
2. Medical Training
Just as there are countless classes you can host on weapons training, there are countless you can teach on medical. How to treat and dress combat injuries, how to respond to casualties of various weather conditions (hot weather, cold weather, etc.), and how to prepare a troop to properly hand off the injured to professionals — these are all life-saving skills. They don’t need to be field surgeons, but there’s no excuse for not knowing how to bring someone to proper care.
One such class could be on how to properly extract a casualty under fire. For maximum effect, train as you fight — in gear. Practice all means available, from over the shoulder carries to drags. If even the smallest person in your team can find suitable means of extracting the largest person, you’re golden.
(Funker Tactical | YouTube)
3. Radio communication
While the average troop may not need to touch a radio, if the worst comes to worst, they’ll need to know. Troops who can properly use a radio and not talk on it like it’s a freaking cellphone are invaluable on the battlefield. Teach the basics of setting up a radio, proper etiquette while talking, and the common requests, like calling for fire or a nine-line MEDEVAC.
If the radio operator can’t get on the hand-mic or is injured, someone else will need to operate it. The Medical Evacuation will need to know the most important five things before they can set out. They are: The location of the injured, the frequency to reach the radio operator, the precedence and number of the injured, if any special equipment is needed, and number of patients who need a litter or can walk. The mnemonic device most commonly used to remember this is, “Low Flying Pilots Eat Nachos.”
(Javier NS | YouTube)
4. Wilderness survival skills
The best part about wilderness survival training is that, by definition, it’s supposed to be about not having the proper tools. Whether you train the troop in how to survive outside in a desert or how to survive the backwoods of your military installation, these are tips that can also be applied off-duty when civilians ask to go camping.
A quick and easy skill to learn is how to build a debris hut. You could use a poncho, but you can make a basic structure with just three sturdy sticks as a base and some branches for insulation.
(Tom McElroy | YouTube)
5. Skills relevant to their deployment
Above all, the troop must know the skills required by their specific MOS. But, as what everyone who has ever deployed can tell you, you’ll always do more. Even if you believe that you and your troops have the most cushioned position in the safest place, they should know their battle drills. Specifically, Battle Drill 2: react to contact.
BD2 is the breakdown of what you should do after an enemy engages you. Immediately — before they have time to think — troops should be able to identify what makes great cover from wherever the enemy is. It should be second nature that they should stack on a concrete wall and await the next orders. The rest of BD2 falls on the leader’s shoulders.
(DrakeFoster | YouTube)
6. Cross-train with other sections
Continuing on the theme of “things you weren’t trained to do but do anyways,” we have: other people’s tasks. Your troops should be self-reliant to the point that they don’t need the people from the other platoon to hold their hands through everything. A great way to do this is to find another NCO from another section and make a deal. You help teach their troops this time, they help you teach next time.
This doesn’t have to be between the squad or platoon levels. If you have a buddy in another battalion or brigade who has a wildly different MOS from you, ask them to help break the monotony of daily training. Everyone has something to offer. Even if they’re grunts and you’re far from it, you can still pick up a few things here and there.
(Tactical Rifleman | YouTube)
7. Military history
Troops need to know the shoulders of the giants upon which they stand. Every military installation has names of great troops, famous battles, and historic locations written on nearly every building and street. If you’re a 101st Airborne soldier stationed at Fort Campbell, you should be able to give details on the significance behind the name “Market Garden Road” whenever you run it in the morning.
(Maps of History | YouTube)