To Shoot Or Not To Shoot…?
Friday was the culmination to a weeks worth of general, and basic, military skills training and testing. It is the annual things that it seems all in the forces go through every year to make sure that they are up to speed on the general and basic things that make up the very core of our job.
First Aid skills. IED awareness training. Nuclear Biological and Chemical Warfare. The Law of Armed Conflict. Rules of Engagement. And of course Weapon handling and firing skills.
Now normally I would give this a second thought. I go shooting once a year. Blast about 60 rounds down a 25m Range and the job, as they say, is a fish. (Don’t ask me why, but they do!) But this was the Army version. Outside on a a 500m range with targets that fall when hit. Firing at different ranges from 50m up to 400m, different firing positions…
And instead of just wearing our normal combats and a set of ear plugs, this time it was in full combat gear, with helmet, and Osprey Combat Body Armour, webbing belt, gloves and ballistic-protection glasses. A lot of kit. Similar kit to what we’ll be wearing in Afghan after all this training is completed in March. And firing outside at similar ranges to in Afghan.
And then there’s the rifle. The one I shot with yesterday is the one I will be using out there too. And it’s what I call a proper rifle. Not the bog standard SA80 off the shelf, with a ‘normal’ handgrip and a rubbish sight fitted. The one I now have is a combat one. With an extra fore-grip and a SUSAT optical magnification sight. Not something that a normal RAF techie would have.
All of which made to remind me exactly where I am going and what I am going to be doing. And then I started shooting and knocking down the targets. After a few days of wondering what I can bring to the party of going out…I know something that I am good at. Shooting. If it comes to it, I can put some rounds down effectively and I can look after myself. As I worried the other day, would I be a liability? Well, not when it comes to weapon handling so far. I can at least shoot.
Which I went on to discuss with my girl-friend last night when we were washing-up after tea. She, a medic remember, asked me if I would use the rifle if I had to. Without a shadow of a doubt. If I am getting shot at, in one way or another, and the Rules of Engagement are right, then I will fire back. If I can see where the rounds are coming in from, then I will blast back.
I have thought about this long and hard. Out there, as far as I am concerned there are bad people who want to do bad things. They want to do bad things to me, and the people I am going out with. They want to do bad things against the people whom I am trying to help. If they start doing those bad things, then I am equipped, trained and able to do bad things back to them.
I am not a violent person. I don’t like the idea of killing. We once had a family of mice in the garage. I scooped up their nest and took it off in an old shoe box to a field and hid it in a quiet corner of the field. I didn’t use mousetraps or poison. They didn’t deserve to die. Same with spiders in this house. We get some biiiiig buggers here for some reason, but a glass and a bit of card will mean that they are re-located outside. But I don’t see the point in killing for killing sake. And the thought of killing another human being…well, that I can’t really imagine.
Except in this case. I am going to a war-zone. I am going to a place that has struggled with people doing bad things for 30 years. The people there need some peace. They need to rebuild and they need to develop; to prosper. They deserve the same things as we have. The right to live without real fear. The right for their children to grow up without the fear of stepping on a mine or bomb. The right to a childhood.
And that is what I am going there to do. And if in the course of doing that, I need to use my rifle to make that so, then I will. This may sound a bit cold and thoughtless, but believe me I have thought about it a lot. A hell of a lot. It is a huge responsibility to go somewhere with a weapon. With the thought of taking someones life. You need to have that clear in your mind when you are going to be in that situation. As the range instructor on the day said ‘There’s no Silver Medal in a firefight. You either win or you lose.’
And if I end up in one, I intend to win it. So I can help those people out there who really do want peace and security, and so I can come home to what matters the most. My family.