Professional militaries around the world know that there’s no substitute for good training. This is especially true when executing high-risk tasks such as the precision employment of explosives. In order to ensure effective, efficient, and safe application, equipment employment must be practiced, perfected, and engrained in personnel long before users encounter a need to apply it on the battlefield. Fortunately, modern weapon systems like the Bandolier clearing charge are designed not only for real-world impact but also to encourage and enable practical, effective training.
Training Priorities Can Fuel Innovation
Training management has always been a major focus of professional militaries. With every lull in operational tempo, a renewed focus is placed on training effectiveness and efficiency. Regardless of the technological advances in combat equipment, quality training drives battlefield success, and quality training relies on ease of execution and the ability to replicate operational conditions. The U.S. Army’s Unit Training Management (UTM) establishes—“the process commanders, leaders, and staffs use to plan-prepare-execute-assess unit training and [to] identify the resources needed to accomplish that training”. Resource allocation often becomes the most challenging part of executing effective training, as many resources are closely controlled to manage safety and cost.
Recognizing this challenge, industry must identify opportunities to adapt design features of their products that not only improve their effectiveness on mission, but that also enable unencumbered training. This concept was carefully considered in the design evolution of Critical Solutions International’s Bandolier clearing charge. The versatility of employment techniques and reusability of inert systems allow non-live-fire training to occur without the burden of safety restrictions and cost that frequently prevent the execution of dynamic, context-driven training.
Training on the construction and emplacement of explosive charges can use one of two materials: inert training aids or live explosives. Inerts are expensive when one considers that, despite not offering the benefit of a demonstrated explosive effect, they are largely one-time-use consumables. After cutting, shaping, and constructing inert C-4 or detonating cord to create a specific charge for a specific target, these materials can no longer be reconstituted and used for other charges or targets. The benefit of inerts is that trainees gain the experience of building and emplacing charges without the administrative burden associated with live explosives or the safety restrictions that limit the ability to replicate operational conditions or pace. However, units often see the employment of one-time use explosive inerts as cost prohibitive when trainees can get construction and emplacement training on a live range. So, explosive training occurs predominately with live explosives. Again, this means that training can be infrequent (due to cost and administrative burden), unrealistic (due to range and safety limitations), and “canned” (due to trainers’ need to closely control execution). The design of the Bandolier clearing charge not only makes it a more versatile explosive system in real life situations but also a more versatile, reusable inert system for training.
Time is Money
Training can be expensive. The burden of coordinating and resourcing effective training often discourages leaders from planning sophisticated events. Planning for training events takes thought, time, and can require high-level approval. Likewise, resourcing that training is expensive, takes time, and requires high-level approval. Ultimately this is why trainers often struggle to balance funding with necessary resource requirements and why personnel go without frequent, regular, quality training.
Solutions Designed with Training in Mind
The burden of technology felt by the modern warfighter has had a negative impact on the ability to train. While soldiers of the past became experts on the handful of equipment they were responsible for, contemporary soldiers are responsible for an ever-expanding breadth of highly technical and expensive equipment, ultimately increasing the requirements for training and reducing proficiency on any one piece of equipment. As a result, overburdened personnel receive less focused training at greater intervals. Personnel ultimately know less about more. That is why equipment and systems like the Bandolier clearing charge are so important. Not only do these resources execute multiple tasks, reducing the breadth of training required for a range of missions, but they also improve the ease with which soldiers can train.
Train as You Fight
There’s no substitute for quality training. “Leaders skilled in the art and science of training management not only improve their unit's readiness but also become more proficient in conducting operations because they are training as they will fight.” The U.S. Army’s UTM definition highlights the notion that good leadership, proper training, and appropriate training management can enhance personnel capabilities beyond basic battlefield readiness. This can only be done if militaries evaluate every opportunity to improve training resources and consider training execution during the development and acquisition of equipment. With all the sophisticated equipment available, modern defense technology capability can outpace fielding, institutionalization, and practical application. In the simplest terms, to ensure equipment can be used effectively, industry must design with training in mind.