Monday, May 10, 2010

Chapter 50: Hand-Gun Range

Bettina, the third woman of my team, joined us as we moved to the range. Lisa stuck to her like glue, although I didn't consider her to be a member of the team.

The refresher on the range achieved my first objective very quickly, which was to drive home the fact that most soldiers shot really, really badly with hand-guns of any type. The problem is normally to get them to admit it, so that alternative arrangements can be made. I had learnt my lesson the hard way though, and knew that actions spoke much louder than words.

Most people who have shot hand-guns, have trained on a static range with paper targets. A lot of these, including professional soldiers, had not been formally trained at all, just taught themselves or picked up what they could from observation and trial and error.

Our range was designed to make the point instantly that this was not good enough. A person can be taught to shoot an assault-rifle sufficiently well in just a few weeks, that he can be considered a competent infanteer. It was my experience that the same was not true of hand guns. They involve completely different skills and abilities.

I took my team through the range first, so that we could get them out of the way, but also so that they wouldn't have any pressure on them as they wouldn't know what was good or bad.

After I had briefed them on the range rules, and test their knowledge, I took them them through the course one at a time. This first course was a favourite of mine with strange things like pumpkins and oranges and water-filled plastic bottles hanging from strings. All designed to be highly visible when hit. A lot of them had movement built in, swinging and twisting in the breeze.

Daise was a lot more confident this time, having used her weapon in action, and managed to score a respectable 60% of possible. Alina and Bettina scored in the low forties, but the big surprise was Lisa.

I had no intention at first of even allowing her to shoot, but she insisted and her mother backed her up. I tried to offer her a smaller weapon, but she refused that too, insisting that she be given the opportunity equal to the adult's.

She turned out to be fairly slow, recovery from the recoil was hard on her, hurting her wrists, but she stuck it out and at the end of the course I was astounded and delighted that she had scored a full possible; 100%.

Once we had all gone through the course, I took my team aside to discuss their performance and put it into context for them. Normally, I had to explain to a very discouraged group that it was normal to fail the course; that's what it was designed for after all, but Lisa had screwed that up for me completely.

It worked out very well in another way though. Once all the men had been through the course, and not one of them had beaten Daise's score, the example of Lisa reinforced the idea that they could shoot these weapons as well as they could.

I made it clear to them that we would be running classes for all those who wished to attend them, and that they qualifying score on this range was 80%. Anything less than that and I didn't want to risk the collateral damage they might cause in an urban environment.

We broke for lunch after that, and I took the opportunity to greet someone that I had really hoped to see, but hadn't been sure would show up.

Jack is a short, quiet man. Completely unobtrusive and the antithesis of flamboyant. He was the person, however, who had designed and built the Special Forces Urban Warfare course on the Bluff, and ho had written the manual for the South African doctrine along the way. He also had the distinction of having been awarded the Honoris Crux, the SA decoration for valour equivalent to the American CMH or the British VC. He had retired from the army as a Major and gone on to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a game-ranger.*

We discussed quietly what I hoped to achieve and Jack gave me some initial pointers before disappearing. I was able to extract a promise from him that he would visit a few times and help to evaluate and improve the program, and possible even present a class or two, but he wasn't prepared to commit to more than that, to my huge disappointment.

* Read the real life story of Major Jack Greeff, HC (rtd) in his book "A Greater Share of Honour" from

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Will there be more?