Editor’s note: As a special service for our readers, WND is running a series of dispatches from Allan Wall chronicling his transition from civilian life as he prepares to fight with his National Guard unit in Iraq. Allan will write for us as often as he is able in order to let our readers vicariously experience what people in his position are going through. We hope you will check regularly for Allan’s dispatches and encourage your friends and family to do likewise.
Army training can be held in various environments. It can be conducted in a formal classroom, but most of our training is not. The training is hands-on and practical – first aid, NBC warfare, combat techniques, land navigation, communication, weapons … how to use them, how to take care of them.
The “classroom” is often outside, maybe beside the barracks, or somewhere in Fort XYZ, under shade if possible. If the training deals with a particular weapon or special type of equipment, a demonstration of how to operate that weapon or equipment is provided. The trainees are seated, sometimes on bleachers, but usually on the ground. Often the soldiers haven’t had much sleep the night before, and when one begins to doze off, he is forced to stand up to stay awake. The class may be followed by a practical test or exercise.
The Army tasks that soldiers are trained on are taken from the Army’s voluminous storehouse of doctrine and training manuals. Each task has its official source. For each task, Army manuals include specific conditions and standards, a step-by-step explanation of how to do it, diagrams and safety warnings. For example, near the end of the lesson explaining how to load a rifle, the text warns: “The rifle is now loaded. Ensure it is pointed in a safe direction.”
The reference for basic Army tasks is a thick paperback book called the “Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks, Skill Level 1.” It contains the basic things a soldier needs to know and what he learns in Basic Training. Each task includes a test to evaluate if the soldier has learned the task. All the tasks in this book are taken from other manuals, for which the references are given.
Army literature is an enormous body of work. Every single Army task is probably written up somewhere. For example, the task “Load an M16-Series Rifle” is task number 071-311-2027. Its reference is “Training Manual (TM) 9-1005-249-10 or TM 9-1005-319-10.” The task “Unload an M16-Series Rifle” is task number 071-311-2028. Its training manual is TM 9-1005-249-10. (These particular tasks are not classified, by the way, and are available on public sources).
Of course, the training a soldier receives depends upon his MOS (military occupational specialty) so my impression of Army training is based upon my own experience.
When I compare my Army training to my years of formal civilian education, I find it to be very different. Speaking only for myself, I personally find Army training to be more difficult than classroom education . That’s because I’m not too apt at manual dexterity skills. I learn them slowly, and only retain them if I practice them constantly (like using a computer for example). But that’s just me. Others are different.
My fellow Guardsmen and I have been training on various tasks. Some of them are reviews of tasks we have trained on before in the National Guard. And others are new tasks. But they are all based on the present military situation in Iraq since we are training to go to Iraq. This is not National Guard Annual Training, but rather training for our mission in a dangerous place.