“Guard and Reserves have been involved in combat operations for very long period of time. We are going to come up with a readiness model that will keep them at a little bit higher level than they have been in the past.”
– Gen. Ray Odierno
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The Pentagon’s decision to cut the size of the Army by 80,000 soldiers will force the military to rely more on the National Guard and Reserves. Increased use of the reserve components was a factor in Force XXI doctrine, which requires heavy reserve augmentation to the active component.
In “Integrating Active and Reserve Component Training” by MAJ John Knight, a graduate paper written at the Army Logistics Management College’s Logistics Executive Development Course, it was noted that, “Integrated Active Component and Reserve Component training increase the force-projection capabilities of the Total Army. Combined training must be integrated into every single training opportunity and at all levels of training, individual and collective. … Similarly, every time a unit conducts marksmanship training, it should offer slots to its counterparts to take advantage of the opportunity and save money. Such events foster increased understanding by both AC and RC soldiers of the other’s role. Overall unit readiness would improve on both sides if such partnership units took full advantage of each other’s training opportunities.”
Following in line with this doctrine, members of the US Army Reserve Shooting Team were asked to conduct Designated Marksman training on the M14EBR-RI Enhanced Battle Rifle for deploying members of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. The USAR Shooting Team was established as a powerful force multiplier that enhances readiness. The active component requested this training from Reservists because of noted, consistent successes of these shooter-instructors.
Organized shooting is a proven, objective approach for sorting out your best talent, which is why it is directed by published regulation. Taking this talent pool and employing them as instructors is an effective force multiplier. “We don’t merely train better shooters. We build marksmanship instructors,” states two-time President’s Hundred winner and four-time Mountain Man trophy winner MSG Norman Anderson. Put a champion shooter on the ground and he is another rifle. Put him in a position to train others and he can raise the skills thousands. Also important, USAR shooting-instructors put in charge of small arms training have been credited with documented savings of millions of rounds of ammo over non-shooting team range personnel due to their heightened skills and expertise.
The M14 Resurrected
The 82nd also requested the USAR Shooting Team because of their expertise on the Enhanced Battle Rifle. In fact, two of the Reserve team members have built EBRs at Rock Island. This rifle is a modernized M14 Battle Rifle with an aluminum billet stock that bears a resemblance to the T25 prototype that the original M14 is based. The stock, manufactured by Sage International (sageinternationalltd.com), includes an M16-type pistol grip, cantilever mount, Picatinny rails. The barreled actions from M14s are set into the new stock and tweaked for accuracy. A quality adjustable power optic from Leopold or Nightforce is included. Picatinny rails are set above the receiver and around the forend, allowing modular capability. A variety of day/night optics, lasers, vertical hand grips, bipods and other accessories can be added. As a squad-level rifle the EBR can be handled effectively at close distances but is intended for long range precision work. Properly tweaked, EBRs routinely shoot M118LR ammunition at one MOA, the same accuracy standard as the M24 and M110.
As an M14-based rifle the EBR is chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge and is semi-automatic. The effective range is out to 800 yards, similar to the M24. EBRs are beefy, weighing in at just under fifteen pounds unloaded, almost 3.5 pounds heavier than a standard issue M14, with an overall length of 35 inches. EBRs affords infantry squads the volume of fire of a self loader with the range and accuracy of a sniper rifle.
Training the 82nd
As per the Field Manual, training was broken down into five phases including position evaluation, dry fire, range estimation, and field fire qualification. The end goal was to teach the new Designated Marksmen how to train themselves. “In the beginning of it, we are training them. As we progress, we are actually teaching them how to train themselves and how to sustain their training so when we go away they can still keep confidence and competence to keep a sustained force,” noted SSG John Arcularius, a former USMC Rifle Team member, current non-commissioned officer in charge of the Army Reserve Service Pistol Team and gunsmith for the FBI. “The best thing we can give them is confidence in their weapon’s ability to hit at those extended ranges we expect it to hit,” he said.
Following a full classroom overview, a zero phase was conducted at 100 and 300 meters with iron sights and optics. Each student had a coach watching them shoot, to help improve fundamental skills, and additional coaching through spotting scopes to observe trace, or the bullet’s flight to the target. Shooters were given full feedback of every fired shot and plotting the results in a databook to record Data Of Previous Engagements, or dope.
With initial no-wind zeroes established, the designated marksman than shot across the course, getting data on each yard line from 100 back to 500. This helped confirm no-wind zeroes, establish elevation zero for distance and allowed feedback in varying conditions. This culminated in qualification, with shooting at 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 meters. The course was shot first with the students adjusting their sights for each string and it was repeated with students required to hold off for every shot based on conditions.
This prescribed Army Squad Designated Marksman qualification was originally intended for issue M16-series rifles, so this proved easy for EBR-armed DMs. Rock Island has been averaging 0.89 MOA accuracy with the EBR and we had numerous perfect scores going out to 500. Time to up the challenge.
Taking the class out to a machine gun range, with RETS “pop up” targets out to 800 meters, the instructors created a course of fire beginning at 600. Students first confirmed zeroes on target out to 800 with instructors spotting the trace, and then engaged for record. As before, the Reserve instructor-shooters led their students with a 100 percent qualification.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Tyree, a squad leader in 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd/504th PIR, said the training provided “very good teaching points,” and that the Reserve instructors “… really relate the training to how we are going to use it when we get down range.” Tyree, who deployed to Iraq twice, said the training was definitely a confidence builder for him and his fellow airborne soldiers. “Hands down, this is some of the best training I’ve had in the last couple of years,” he said.