I attended a couple lectures and seminars last week relating to my day job. There wasn’t particularly anything notable about them, especially given the audience for this blog. However, there was a side conversation that got me thinking. At some point around day two (of four), we went down a tangent concerning where the various military services appropriate dollars for equipment and training. While this statement may come across as groan-inducing for some (particularly those who have lived in those other services), I found it interesting enough to continue thinking about.
At some point, an individual in the room said, “The Air Force purchases weapon systems and then recruits people to operate them. To the Army and Marines, the people are the weapons and the services purchase tools to let them fight more effectively.”
Given the many acquisition debacles that have occurred within the Pentagon on behalf of all of the services, this statement is not entirely true. Politicians, bureaucrats, and Generals love their big dollar weapons programs- and the people be damned. But, aside from that, the statement does speak to a certain idea of ‘warrior culture’ that many of us in the USAF feel is lacking among our peers, but we see elsewhere. It speaks to a part of us that honors those historical icons who took average (or even sub-par) equipment and made it work through sheer talent and skill. It’s the mentality I’ve seen among many Marines that says, “Yeah, we get the shitty second-hand equipment. But we’re still the Marines, and we’re still going to kick your ass.” I know this last part isn’t true anymore, but it was the stereotype for a while. It’s about being the weapon rather than using the weapon.
How does this relate to marksmanship?
Part of my intent in starting this blog was that I found myself spending more and more money on gear in an effort to make up for perceived shortcomings in capability. Ultimately, I realized that these shortcomings were in my own skills rather than something that my equipment was lacking. I was, in effect, being the Air Force and looking for hardware solutions to software problems. This can work for a while, until you feel that something else must be holding back your progress and you just need to figure what it is and where to buy it.
The “Marksman Mentality” would be one in which I trained myself first to be a competent shooter, and took my tools to the maximum of their capability. Once that skillset was fully developed, money is spent on new tools that expand on capability. This is the reason that my own AR-15 guides preach starting basic. The specialty mods and barrels only make a difference between two skilled shooters who will perform well regardless of the tool they use.
So, what is your mentality?
Are you the gear-focused person who wants all the shiniest new toys even if you can’t really use them effectively? Or are you the marksman who perfects your own skill set and purchases tools to enhance that skill set.
Frankly, I still struggle with this- especially given that range time (or free time in general) is so much harder to come by these days.