Trainers must consider the impact of limited visibility on the soldier's ability to properly apply the fundamentals of marksmanship and combat firing skills. These fundamentals/ skills include:
Operation and Maintenance of the Weapon. Handling the weapon, performing operation and function checks, loading and unloading, and maintenance are affected by nighttime conditions. Movements are slowed, tasks take longer to complete, vision is impaired, and equipment is more easily misplaced or lost. Because combat conditions and enforcement of noise and light discipline restrict the use of illumination, soldiers must be trained to operate (load, unload, and clear), service, and clean their weapons using the lowest lighting conditions. Although initial practice of these tasks should occur during daylight (using simulated darkness) to facilitate control and error correction, repeated practice during actual nighttime conditions should be integrated with other training. Only through repeated practice and training can the soldier be expected to perform all tasks efficiently.
Immediate Action. Under normal conditions, a soldier should clear a stoppage in three to five seconds. After dark, this task usually takes longer. Identifying the problem may be frustrating and difficult for the soldier. A tactile (hands only) technique of identifying a stoppage must be taught and practiced. Clearing the stoppage using few or no visual indicators must also be included. The firer must apply immediate action with his eyes closed. Dry-fire practice using dummy or blank rounds under these conditions is necessary to reduce time and build confidence. Training should be practiced first during daylight for better control and error correction by the trainer. Practice during darkness can be simulated by closing the eyes or using a blindfold. Once the soldier is confident in applying immediate action in daylight or darkness, he can perform such actions rapidly on the firing line.
Target Detection. Many of the skills discussed in Appendix B apply to target detection after dark. Light from a cigarette or flashlight, discharge of a rifle (muzzle flash), or reflected moonlight/starlight are the main means of target location. Sounds may also be indicators of target areas. Because the other techniques of detection (movement, contrast) are less apparent at night, light and sound detection must be taught, trained, and reviewed repeatedly in practice exercises. Exercises should also emphasize shortened scanning ranges, night vision adaptation, and use of off-center vision. Target detection exercises should be integrated into all collective training tasks.
NOTE: Binoculars are often overlooked as night vision aids. Because they amplify the available light, binoculars or spotting/rifle scopes can provide the firer with another means to locate targets during limited visibility. Also, the use of MILES equipment is effective for use in engaging detected targets.
Marksmanship Fundamentals. The four marksmanship fundamentals apply to night firing. Some modifications are needed depending on the conditions. The firer must still place effective fire on the targets or target areas that have been detected.
Steady position. When the firer is firing unassisted, changes in his head position/stock weld will be necessary, especial when using weapon-target alignment techniques. When using rifle-mounted night vision devices, head position/stock weld must be changed to bring the firing eye in line with the device. Also, such mounted devices alter the rifle's weight and center of gravity, forcing a shift in placement of the support (non firing arm or sandbags). Repeated dry-fire practice, followed by live-fire training, is necessary to learn and refine these modifications and still achieve the most steady position.
Aiming. Modifications to the aiming process vary from very little (when using LLLSSs) to extensive (when using modified quick-fire techniques). When firing unassisted, the firer's off-center vision is used instead of pinpoint focus. When using a mounted night vision device, the firer's conventional iron sights are not used. The soldier uses the necessary aiming process to properly use the device.
Breathing. Weapon movement caused by breathing becomes more apparent when using night vision devices that magnify the field of view. This fundamental is not greatly affected by night fire conditions.
Trigger squeeze. This important fundamental does not change during night fire. The objective is to not disrupt alignment of the weapon with the target.
For a soldier to effectively engage targets at night, he must apply the three principles of night vision:
Dark Adaptation. Moving from lighted to darkened areas (as in leaving a tent) can be temporarily blinding. After several minutes have passed, the soldier can slowly see his surroundings. If he remains in this completely darkened environment, he adapts to the dark in about 30 minutes. This does not mean he can see in the dark at the end of this time. After about 30 minutes, his visibility reaches its maximum level. If light is encountered, the eyes must adapt again. The fire on the end of a cigarette or a red-lensed flashlight can degrade night vision; larger light sources cause more severe losses.
Off-Center Vision. During the day, the soldier focuses his vision on the object he wants to see. Shifting this pinpoint focus slightly to one side causes the object to become blurry or lose detail. At night, the opposite is true. Focusing directly on an object after dark results in that object being visible for only a few seconds. After that, the object becomes almost invisible. To view an object at night, the soldier must shift his gaze slightly to one side. This allows the light-sensitive parts of the eye (parts not used during daylight) to be used. These can detect faint light sources or reflections and relay their image to the brain. (Figures 5-1 and 5-2.)
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