Kit Up!

Why we spot check our magazines before, during, and after blank fire training.

This is a incident that I'm sure many people would prefer to forget altogether but I will write about it here given that the topic has come up on Kit Up! recently. While I was attending Ranger School when this happened, I spoke with the medic who packaged the casualty involved and escorted him to the hospital.

Most of you are familiar with conducting blank fire inerations before going to live ammunition during training exercises. This is often a requirement spelled out on risk assessments so that NCOs have to utilize the crawl, walk, run method of training. Tape drills/dry fire, blank fire, live fire. This is especially true during maneuver exercises and CQB training in the shoot house.

In 2004 my unit was conducting training for Direct Action missions and as usual, the platoon conducting the training started off with a blank fire run on the training objective. One Ranger attached his Blank Firing Adapter (BFA) to his M4 and walked over to the wood line to test fire. He found it strange that his BFA popped off during the test fire of blanks and scrounged up another adapter before they hit the objective.

An OPFOR (Opposing Force) had been drawn from outside the unit and these “bad guys” were present on the training objective for the blank fire. The Ranger described above was in the process of clearing the objective when he aimed at and fired on one of the OPFOR. The magazine he had loaded in his rifle had been full of live rounds from the beginning when he test fired his weapon.

The bullet struck the metal rod that is screwed into the barrel of the rifle on the BFA which shot forward as shrapnel. The metal rod struck the OPFOR member “below the belt” severing his femoral artery and taking out one of his testicles in the process. The medic on the scene responded immediately to save his life, later telling me that he had to apply two ratchet (we didn't have the CAT tourniquet at that time) tourniquets to get the bleeding the stop.

The medic remained with the casualty as he was MEDEVAC'd to the hospital. The doctor in the ER freaked out with he saw the tourniquets and told our medic to remove them, an action he refused outright. The doctor had them cut off and the casualty immediately flat lined. Thankfully, the OPFOR member survived but I don't know what his long term prognosis has entailed.

There are a couple of lessons here, one of the big ones is spot checking your subordinate's magazines during training, after you spot check them you have a colleague spot check you because no one is too cool for school no matter how much of a bad ass you think you are. Take a flashlight and look inside the magazine to ensure that every round is a blank. Select a magazine at random from each soldier's kit and download every round in it to be sure. Maybe safety devices like the Blanksafe can help reduce training accidents but leaders still need to inspect to make sure they are being used in the first place.

Kit Up! contributor Jack Murphy is a former Ranger, Special Forces Soldier and is the author of the new military thriller PROMIS: Rhodesia.

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