Capt. Stafford Buchanan, Deputy Base Operations Officer aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, fires his M16A4 service rifle during annual rifle qualifications at the base rifle range. Buchanan and Marines from distant locations participated in the qualifications on April 13.
Marines will soon be engaging moving targets as part of their annual rifle qualifications.
Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration tasked the Weapons Training Battalion to develop a new training program for firing at moving threats during the battalion's WTBN’s annual fiscal 2016 Ccombat Mmarksmanship Ssymposium held aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, in last October.
The new Table 7 course of fire will formalize the training standard both at live fire ranges and indoor simulators as part of the Marine Corps’ efforts to streamline its combat marksmanship program, according to Marine administrative message 112/16.
For years, Marines have noted during after action reviews that they weren't aren’t able to successfully engage moving targets, said Col. Tim Parker, commander of WTBN.
"We have learned that Marines can become very, very effective at hitting moving targets, but only if we train to it," he said. "What we would like to see is that every single Marine, on an annual basis, has to qualify to this."
Like the other six firing tables that which currently guide the Corps’ marksmanship program, the new table will provide a minimum standard course of fire that Marines train to in order to qualify as proficient shooters.
The task for WTBN is to develop a training program that which can be implemented at all ranges across the force, from entry-level training on up.
However, there are very few ranges which currently have moving targets available, such as the Autonomous Robotic Human Type Targets recently deployed to Camp Pendleton for testing.
Such state-of-the-art platforms are proving successful in challenging Marines to accurately and consistently strike targets on the move, but they come withat a hefty price tag.
Autonomous Robotic Human Type Targets make their way off a firing range at Camp Pendleton in February. With their GPS and sensors on the front, the targets are able to navigate the range on command and will correct their own paths to avoid obstacles. The 1st Marine Division is testing the targets to see if they can create more realistic, less predictable training scenarios.
Photo Credit: Cpl. John Baker/Marine Corps
"Robots are great, but is that what we need?" asked Parker. "I love robots, I really do, but it's going to have to be something we can buy for the entire Marine Corps."
While the search is on to find more cost-effective moving targets to field at ranges, WTBN is eager to get the standard established set up so Marines can at least start training to it.
Once identified, it can then be dropped into the Corps’ indoor marksmanship simulators, where the basic muscle memory for shooting at moving targets can be honed, but as a supplement to — not a replacement for — live fire, according to Chief Warrant Officer 5 Gunner Vince Pope, director of the combat marksmanship program’s management section.
"All of our [firing] tables are intended to be the final evaluation via live fire," he said. "The intent is always to live-fire evaluate in the end, but we don't have this now, so what can we get to them at the earliest?"
Matthew L. Schehl covers training and education, recruiting, West Coast Marines, MARSOC, and operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for Marine Corps Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.