U.S. Army training officials say the new marksmanship qualification course will likely require the service to make upgrades to its ranges.
The Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Georgia, is poised to publish TC 3-20.40 "Training and Qualification, Individual Weapons," the new manual that will guide units in active, National Guard and Reserve components as they implement the new marksmanship qualification standard that will replace the current, Cold War-era test.
The new course of fire will feature a four-phase test designed to challenge soldiers with a more realistic scenario than the current, pop-up target range.
But there is still work to be done before the majority of soldiers begin qualifying under the new standard, training officials say.
"The biggest challenges have been with regard to the ranges across the Army," Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School, told Military.com recently. "We have learned that we are probably going to have to make some adjustments to a lot of the ranges across the Army."
The new course of fire uses the same pop-up targets as the current one, but the software that controls the target lifters may have to be adjusted or updated because the new course will feature multiple target exposures at the same time, while the current test consists of many single exposures, marksmanship officials said.
The bigger challenge, however, is that many of the targets themselves may have to be adjusted so they meet Army standards, said Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, Marksmanship Program director for the Infantry School.
"The big thing is target exposures not being set to the proper standard," he said. "They are supposed to [be set] at 90% exposure, and a lot of the times we are finding far less -- somewhere in the range of 50%-to-70% exposures for targets."
This places the shooter at a disadvantage, Rowland said. The average target is 40 inches long by 20 inches wide.
"Ninety percent of that would be 36 inches," he said. "A lot of the times, we are getting a target on an average lane that is only 28 inches exposure for all the targets.
"It causes issues for the shooter because their holds are off, and they aren't aware of it. They are told to aim center of this mass, and they are, and they are [shooting] over the shoulder because the target's height exposure is not proper."
Once TC 3-20.40 is signed by Brig. Gen. David Hodne, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning's Maneuver Center of Excellence, and published, unit leaders have a year to send back feedback on any challenges they face with putting the new qualification standard into action.
It's difficult to set an implementation date, Venable said, until Benning receives that feedback.
"We haven't had the same requirements of these ranges as we are going to have now so, in some cases, they just need updating or they just need some maintenance," she said.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.