Is All Training Created Equal?

For many problems in life, what matters is the solution – the result – not how you achieve it. There are exceptions, of course – especially where the government is concerned. Even the military is far from uniform – the old joke about there being “the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way” is still very true, unfortunately. Nowhere is this more true than where training materials are concerned.

You can, if you wish, download a copy of the Army’s FM 3-22.34 here (10MB Adobe PDF). That, in case you don’t have all the Field Manual numbers memorized, is the manual for TOW missile crews. Because the Marines don’t make doctrinal publications available online – and are frequently quite resistant to providing them, even in response to FOIA requests – I can’t show you the comparable USMC publication. But that’s not a big deal; these are reference manuals, not training or instructional manuals.

The Army’s training manual for the TOW missile system is MM4811 (2.8MB PDF), which covers pretty literally everything you could ever possibly want to know about the weapon – wiring diagrams, the design of the “night sight”, even some schematics! In a lot of ways, the textbook is far more in-depth – and useful – than the field manual.

The Marine Corps’ training manual for the TOW missile system is Course 0355B (8.5MB PDF). Though a number of the illustrations are the same, the contents are considerably different. The USMC text places far more emphasis on actual practice, rather than the fundamental theory covered by the Army publication. At the same time, the Marine manual seems to have been “dumbed down” considerably – an elite fighting force they may be, but you’d never know it from reading this; it seems written for tenth-grade high-school students with attention-deficit disorders, in a fashion that I, personally, would find somewhat patronizing.

What’s better – the Army’s emphasis on how and why, or the Marines’ emphasis on “how to”? I’m convinced that Army TOW crewmembers know much more about their weapon systems than their Marine counterparts; whether that makes them better, more effective fighting forces, I can’t say.

As an aside, both of these training manuals are the “current” editions, despite dating from the 1980s and being in some areas horribly out of date. A huge chunk of the Marine textbook covers the use of the Jeep-mounted TOW missile; how applicable this is to a fighting force with no Jeeps is left to the reader to decide. (I’m sure many of the basics are applicable to the HMMWV-mounted version, but some of the instructions are very much Jeep (M151A2) specific…)

Published in: General | on July 25th, 2008| Comments Off on Is All Training Created Equal?

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