I had a nice afternoon, today. I got to teach some of the basics in Machine Gun tactics.

Without going into too much detail, we have a project going at work that involves putting a machine gun onto a "platform" that doesn't currently have one. (That seems adequately uninformative.) Naturally there are a bunch of mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and some software engineers involved and just as naturally they all know what they need to do to make this a successful program. So, needless to say, they were more than a little bit miffed at having to come to a briefing by me on machine guns. Their body language spoke volumes... leaning back in their chairs, arms crossed, looking at their watches, doodling on their note paper and unabashedly looking bored.

The Program Manager had not been of a mind to give me any budget to brief his team, so I'd made the offer to give them a 1 hour "freebie", and the team's systems engineer twisted their arms to accept. We kind of backed them into a corner where they couldn't object without seeming petty. To make the point that it was a freebie, I prepared no powerpoint slides and said I was just going to speak extemporaneously and draw pictures on the whiteboard. (Not exactly true, I'd been mentally rehearsing for about a week .)

I didn't cover a quarter of what I had in my mental notes, but by the end of the hour, I had them totally convinced that they didn't know squat about machine gun operations and that they really did need to know some of the stuff that I had at the top of my head.

We started with the three kinds of effects that fires can have (destruction, neutralization and suppression) and why suppression was far more important in reality than the other two and why machine guns were good at it. From there I explained the basic reasons why MGs are employed with the Traversing and Elevating mechanism. (These are engineers, they were already very conversant with the weapon's operating cycle and why the bullets come out and the specs related thereunto, but none had heard of the T&E.) What they didn't have was a feel for the types of targets and how engagements actually happened. They only had war movies to go on for that stuff.

Next I explained that GFE didn't always mean "Government Furnished Equipment" - the abbreviation they were used to in executing contracts. In MG lore it is an accronym, or so I told them, for: "Grazing, Flanking, Enfilading" fire. We then defined all those terms and their complements.

Time was running out so I showed them how a company commander would employ his machine guns in the standard "linear defense" and explained about FPLs and PDFs and so forth. We had to give the conference room up for the next meeting at that point, and I lamented and apologized for not getting to alternate, supplemental and secondary positions. I told them that there was a lot more to cover in the defense, not to mention talking about the MG in the attack and all the special considerations of urban combat, special operations, night, etc. By this time everyone was leaning forward in their seats, frantically copying my figures off the whiteboard and asking questions like crazy.

At the end of the pitch, as we filed out into the hall, I heard those sweet words all good Ops Analysts want to hear from the Program Manager: "How many hours would you need to finish this discussion?"

I simply love that. Not because I need the charge number for my time..., I have plenty of work on my plate. I love it because, it was a day when my knowledge and experience was really making a difference in how engineers were going to think about their project.

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Comment by Don Chappell on May 16, 2008 at 10:23pm
Tom, where do you find this stuff? There is NO WAY that I'm showing that video to my "students", sure there were a few weapons being fired with the T&E, but most everybody was doing the John Wayne thing that I was trying to get them to forget about. That said, I sure have seen some shooters that can hold an automatic weapon on target, at least at close range. (What do you figure, looked like about 200 meters on the main range? Hard to tell in a video.)

Rich; I'd have to be careful with that. While I felt good about it, the way I told it, the engineers might take offense, tho none is intended. Those guys are great at what they do; they do stuff that I can't do; and they make "the magic happen". The trick is getting them to see what the magic needs to be.

Chuck, the basic original Squad Leader (and now Combat Commander) don't reflect some of the key MG characteristics very well. That's why the rules on fire lanes and eventually residual fire came to be. Also, ironically, spraying fire (which is in CC). I don't know how many other European nations use that as a "doctrinal" technique of fire, but I do know that the Dutch do. When my Marines and I saw them doing that we were aghast..., just couldn't believe it. But, perhaps it does work..., I'd have to be convinced tho.

Some principles of fire from the Napoleonic age will obviously apply, particularly in the attack. However, the primary characteristic of the MG is its high sustained rate of fire. That makes it ideal for SUPPRESSING the enemy, so that other weapons, or maneuvering forces, can operate against them with less risk. Suppression as we think of it, isn't really a Napoleonic concept in the sense that I understand the period. (Tho it is somewhat related to the idea of fixing the enemy in place.)

Thanks for all the compliments, gents. I appreciate them as much as I was surprised to get them. I was just blogging because ACTS is down and I can't play.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on May 16, 2008 at 4:56pm
Excellent story, and congratulations on the presentation going so well.
Comment by Tom Meier on May 16, 2008 at 9:01am
Don et al.

You guys need to check out this video!!!

Comment by Rich Phares on May 16, 2008 at 7:45am
You should have this story published in Phalanx as an "OR in the Real World" example. Corrina at the MORS office can probably make it happen! Great story!
Comment by Eric Walters on May 16, 2008 at 6:39am
And now...it's Miller Time. GREAT story, Don. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall on this one.

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