Live Fire & Maneuver or MILES

by LtCol John Poole, USMC(Ret)

Today’s overcommitted Marine might wonder how the juxtaposed viewpoints of LtCol Michael H. Collier and Paul Seidenman (MCG, Aug98) could both be right. Live fire against pop-up targets has its place in Marine training. Such ranges test reaction time and accuracy. However, to say that “live fire and maneuver” is now the priority violates maneuver warfare doctrine. In maneuver warfare, surprise displaces firepower. The firing of small arms alerts the enemy to the physical presence of ground troops. Modern tactics involve applying force silently or with weapons that sound like indirect fire or mines. In the past, we gauged our success by ordnance delivered. Now we must measure it by casualties avoided.

That’s where MILES [Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System] comes in. Situationally inappropriate standing operating procedures can be easily identified by too many people beeping. In other words, casualty totals are the best indicator of tactical effectiveness. Fleet Marines are ready for improved MILES gear. They realize the importance of casualty assessment but are frustrated by the scarcity and limitations of the older version. The upgraded MILES 2000 will certainly be welcomed.

Marines who wonder how to proportion training with live fire and MILES need to do some historical research. When the enemy shows up in actual war, one is tempted to start shooting with every weapon available. While shooting may be the appropriate response initially, subsequently moving forward while shooting can quickly become inappropriate. A “prepared enemy position” must either be bypassed or neutralized by deliberate attack. Most of the units injured in Vietnam were not ambushed per se, they merely stumbled or were drawn into prepared enemy positions and then made the mistake of hastily attacking them.