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Today's Stuff

Why did the 3rd Infantry Division have the lowest Rifle Qualification in the US Army?

US Army Background Info:
Army Officers, especially Infantry Officers, are rated on the ability of their troops to qualify annually on the rifle range. This is just one aspect, albeit a very important one, that is looked at for an Officer’s evaluation. If your soldiers can’t shoot, you should start looking for another job because your next evaluation might just ensure that you will never get promoted. The military has an “Up Or Out” system - if you don’t get promoted, you will eventually get thrown out of the service.

Officers of all types are assigned additional duties that are somewhat outside the scope of their usual responsibilities. For example, a Rifle Platoon Leader might also serve additionally as the Mess Hall Officer or the Morale Officer – more about Morale Officers at a later date. My favorite duty description was for the assignment as Sexually Transmitted Disease Officer – the assignment was to educate the troops on STDs and how to prevent them...and, no, experience wasn’t necessary

Blackfive’s Role:
For some reason, soon after the Gulf War, my brigade started suffering from a downturn in rifle qualifications. It was something miniscule like going from 2% to 4% of soldiers not qualifying with their weapons. It was probably due to soldiers missing range dates because they were taking vacations with their families - families they hadn't seen in nine or ten months. I am sure that some General somewhere went ballistic when the percentage doubled.

At the time, I was an Officer in the 3rd Infantry Division (Wurzburg, Germany), and the Commanding General had the great idea to set up a weekly rifle range where non-qualifiers would be sent to spend their Fridays to ensure that they had ample opportunities to qualify. Often, soldiers would be given Friday afternoons off when all of their work was complete. Therefore, a soldier would be highly motivated to qualify with his weapon the first time rather than spend his Friday afternoons on the range instead of at the Green Goose drinking beers with his buddies.

Guess whom the brass selected to run the range? Nope. They picked me.

The very first range I managed was interesting. Most soldiers had missed their unit’s qualification because they were on vacation or were sick. These guys qualified easily. However, I had a few psychopaths or conscientious objectors in the division show up. I even had one guy that had tried to commit suicide, and his Colonel insisted on him qualifying to raise his Brigade’s qualification statistic.

One of his buddies came with him, and he told me that I should keep a weapon trained on him at all times as he might want to take a few of us out with him. I had a direct order from a Colonel to allow this guy to shoot. I seriously thought about sending him back and dealing with a pissed off Colonel, but I always try to figure out a compromise.

So, my solution was to stand over him, with my 9mm, locked and loaded, pointed at the back of his neck. I told him that if his rifle were pointed anywhere but downrange, I would shoot him, multiple times. He qualified so I guess he didn’t really want to die. His Colonel was very happy. But I was pretty freaked out (wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-in-a-cold-sweat freaked out). The last thing that I wanted was to have some nut job go crazy and start shooting soldiers or himself. At this point, I was thoroughly convinced that this job was going to suck every single Friday until I was re-assigned back to the states.

So, while commiserating over many beers at the Officer’s Club, one of my friends, J.T., said, “Matt, why don’t you invite the Germans?”


We had a strong partnership with the German Army. We invited them to our events, ceremonies, parties, etc. They extended the same courtesy to us. J.T. had the additional duty of being the Liaison Officer to our German partnership unit – he coordinated all of those partnership activities.

He explained, getting excited about the possibilities, “If you invite the Germans to the range, the Division HQ will pay for the food and equipment, for, say, a barbeque…. Plus, the Germans always bring beer with them, and you would get to qualify with their weapons. How cool would that be?!”

Holy @#$%! What A Great Idea!

Soon, J.T. and I had it all arranged. We, both German and American soldiers, would shoot in the morning, then have a pig roast and beer in the later afternoon. The caveat was that, to partake of the food and beer, you had to qualify with your weapon on the range.

The first Friday range worked out well. We had about 50 shooters have a great time sending rounds downrange in the morning, and had a barbeque in the afternoon. The Germans brought kegs of beer. Not the kegs you are thinking of, but, huge, freakishly huge, barrels containing the nectar of the gods – Weiss Beer. Life turned from bad to very good for me that day.

The next Friday I had about 100 shooters.

The Friday after that I had about 200 shooters. We had so many shooters that we had to delay the barbeque by an hour. Every week we had more shooters, different ones, every time.

The next Friday, J.T. showed up. I asked him if he were here to observe the partnership activities. He said, “Nope. I need to qualify.”

At this point, I was beginning to figure out that I was in trouble when US Army soldiers were deliberately missing or not passing their weapons qualifications in order to hang out at my range on a Friday. I even had some shooters return after qualifying – they qualified with me, then, failed to qualify with their unit weeks later, and, hence, got sent back to me. Since I was supposed to be the solution and not the cause of bad qualification statistics, no one looked to closely at what I was doing until a month later.

Eventually, the Division’s weapons qualification stats dropped so low that one Officer was actually fired. And, I kept getting more and more soldiers coming to Blackfive’s Friday Range Und Pig Roast. Finally, my commander figured out what was happening, and the German partnership was stopped. The beauty of the whole thing was that, when the brass started looking for someone to take the blame for poor stats, they couldn’t really blame the guy qualifying more and more people every week.