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By Maj. Scott Detweiler
86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (MTN)
Vermont National Guard Soldiers navigated obstacles, completed fitness tasks and engaged targets during a live-fire exercise conducted by Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) on Aug. 13.
Think hitting that 25-meter target with an M4 carbine rifle is easy? How about after bounding from firing to firing position, dragging wounded comrades to safety and overcoming a weapon malfunction?
“This course of fire is designed to simulate combat operations,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Bates, non-commissioned readiness officer, Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 3-172 IN (MTN). “They’re going to be in a similar physiological condition as to what they will experience in a gunfight, in a combat scenario. We want to do that to get used to performing under those conditions.”
Conducted on Ethan Allen Firing Range, the stress shoot exercise consisted of six targets from three distinct firing points separated by obstacles and tasks.
Soldiers, like U.S. Army Sgt. Pierce Fitzpatrick, sniper team leader, first completed 15 push-ups, high-stepped through ten HMMWV tires, then high-crawled under barbed concertina wire, all before hitting the first firing point.
“I really try to focus on the fundamentals, going back to getting a nice base, making sure I’m not out of control with how I’m holding the weapon,” said Fitzpatrick. “Taking time if time is necessary... don’t want to rush anything.”
Next, Fitzpatrick then sprinted to the second firing position and engaged the third target. Swapping magazines, he engaged the fourth target with two rounds.
At the last firing point, Fitzpatrick engaged the first target with two rounds before encountering a weapons malfunction (an empty casing) which required corrective action. He hit the final targets with the remaining rounds.
Fitzpatrick ended the course by carrying a cinder block to the finish line: “I’m nice and winded from that, wow,” he said afterward.
“Just going out and shooting a few rounds and coming back in doesn’t really get you ready for anything else other than doing that exact task,” said Fitzpatrick. “But if we can add a little stress, a little sweat, pick the heart rate up, I think it benefits everybody, especially if we go and actually do it for real. So it’s really important to do.”
Soldier lethality remains one of the Army’s “six plus two” modernization priorities incorporating new technology and training methods. The updated Army Individual Weapon Qualification Standards released in 2019 is just one example.
“A lethal Soldier is able to effectively engage their targets quickly under intense and highly stressful situations, able to perform under pressure,” said Bates. “We want to train to defeat our enemies, challenge Soldiers and make us a better and more lethal fighting force ready to defend the United States of America however we’re called to do.”