Live fire exercise


After the capture the flag exercise, the recruits advance to a live ammo exercise. In this one, the recruits have weapons loaded with live ammo and surge in waves over embankments. They wear the same special vests they did in the prior exercise that detect when they are hit with a laser, flashing briefly with red lights on the front and back and thereafter delivering a debilitating shock to the wearer until the game is over. As they approach the next embankment, dummies automatically rise up and fire lasers randomly towards the recruits. The recruits shoot to destroy the dummies, making it safe to advance to the next embankment.

During the exercise, recruit Breckinridge’s helmet suffers a malfunction, and Rico foolishly helps him remove it to try and fix it. A nearby recruit is hit with a laser, who in her shock fires her weapon spastically and accidentally fatally shoots Breckinridge in the head.




There was some good discussion on the War Game Equipment post about whether or not practicing against human-like targets is warranted and wise. Instead, we can focus on how this happened in the first place.There are so many technological options.

  • Rubber bullets first.
  • The weapons should know when they are aiming at allies and not fire but register the shot.
  • The weapons should know when their soldier is shocked, and lock up so they can’t fire. After all, the shock is not a common thing to happen on the field, so why ask soldiers to practice controlling a weapon during it.
  • The helmet should know when it’s unbuckled on the field, and shut down the exercise on the spot.

These devices can be unlocked after the soldiers prove themselves competent with these constraints. Any good learning design should ease learners into skills that could prove fatal.

7 thoughts on “Live fire exercise

  1. Good ideas, but they do make some assumptions about how “smart” the weapons and other equipment is. They’ve established (and you’ve covered) that a lot of things that we might think would be better automated require manual intervention. This might point to some sort of philosophical bent of the Federation away from smart weapons and back to human control.

    It does make one wonder what the value of a “live fire exercise” is in this context. Presumably, it’s to get the trainees used to the feel of their weapons firing real ammunition in a realistic combat scenario. But does having one squad running up regular slopes firing live rounds at laser-firing dummies really accomplish the goal?

    It would seem that fatal accidents and non-fatal wounds should abound on those exercises, even if the cadets kept their helmets on.

  2. Have you considered the risk of death might be deliberately designed? Could witnessing the death of a colleague make the remaining team tighter and more focused. Perhaps those in charge don’t mind the death of one recruit if it means the rest of the troops apply themselves more.

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  4. To me, this looks like a genuine accident caused by human error.

    The trainees seem to be wearing the same helmets and body armour under the vests as they wear later on in combat. It may or may not be bulletproof, as later on Rico shoots the Lieutenant played by Michael Ironside at point blank range through his armour, but should offer protection against stray bullets hitting the vitals. Like professional footballers and racing car drivers, a certain risk of injury while practising has to be accepted and this would normally stop fatalities – unless some dumbass takes the armour off.

    IFF systems that detect when the weapon is being aimed at an ally? These have been spoofed in real life. You don’t want your soldiers to think IFF is infallible. And I really wouldn’t want them thinking that it’s always safe to pull the trigger because the gun won’t let you shoot the wrong people.

    Weapons shut down when the vest goes off? Yeah good idea. Although I’d be more worried about whoever is outside the training area getting hit by stray bullets, not the participants.

    Helmet should know when it’s unbuckled? Perhaps, but again these are not raw recruits, they’ve been through the initial stages. You could be disrupting everyone’s training, which is expensive in time if nothing else, for a broken strap – or broken sensor – which doesn’t actually matter. Plus the risk of lazy trainees discovering how easy it is to stop the exercise.

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