Sometimes it takes an international competition focused on military skills to include a course dedicated to the venerable bayonet.
The simple piece of steel adorning the muzzle of rifles has changed little since it’s advent with muzzle-loaded firearms centuries ago; so it was fitting that the event dedicated to its use was simple and to the point.
U.S. Marines with Marine Shooting Detachment Australia, Australian Army soldiers and New Zealand Army soldiers executed a bayonet course here May 15 under the watchful eye of Australian Army Maj. Gen. David Morrison, commanding general, Forces Command.
The bayonet course was one of more than 100 events held during the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting 2011 (AASAM), an annual, international meeting dedicated to combat marksmanship.
“The bayonet course had you sprint up and stab the target and shoot five rounds at the 100 meter line within 20 seconds, and then advance to the 50 (meter line) to shoot five more rounds,” said Sgt. Brandan Jansan, competitor, Combat Shooting Team, Weapons Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Quantico.
AASAM focused on the more practical applications of small arms use through varied courses that pushed shooters out of their comfort zones, incorporating physical fitness, time limits, and scenario-driven maneuvers that include obstacles and simulated equipment failures.
“The courses of fire here had us compress the fundamentals of marksmanship,” said Jansen. “We needed to do everything we were taught on the rifle range, but we needed to do it 10 times faster, and frequently, we needed to do it while out of breath after a run.”
The bayonet fit in well to the overall course of competition, providing a poignant reminder that Marines need field-applicable training in combat marksmanship in addition to their training in fundamental marksmanship if they are to be effective in combat.
“It is taking bits and pieces of everything we have learned and putting it all together; you never know in combat when you are not going to be able to use your fundamentals,” said Sgt. Matthew Gullette, competitor, Combat Shooting Team. “There are going to be times when you need to adapt to the situation and this kind of training would help.”
The training is important to Marines despite the rarity of bayonet use in modern combat.
“The bayonet course keeps skills fresh that we haven’t used recently,” said Jansen. “The more you have practiced doing something, the more it will become muscle memory.”
At the conclusion of the course, Morrison formed the three different teams together for a combined bayonet charge, allowing the Marines and soldiers one last chance to display their fighting spirit.
“There is nothing that a Marine wants to hear more than ‘fix bayonets’ and nothing that the enemy fears more,” said Sgt. Jonathan Shue, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, machine shop, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “From a Marine’s standpoint, a bayonet charge is nothing more than absolute aggression and it’s good to see that other services feel the same.”