Does the US Army teach basic gun safety?


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FourTeeFive
April 17, 2008, 04:49 PM
http://www.bellinghamherald.com/256/story/383593.html

"I don't know," Ayers replied when the judge, Col. John Head, asked why he fired. "I guess I felt so comfortable pulling the trigger when it wasn't loaded before, that I just did it."

NEWS UPDATE Apr, 17, 2008
MILITARY

Fort Lewis soldier sentenced for shooting sergeant

Guilty plea leaves unanswered questions

UPDATED AT 8:08 A.M.

TACOMA -- It wasn't the first time he'd pointed his pistol at a fellow soldier, Cpl. Timothy Ayers told the judge at his court martial Wednesday. But this time, he said, he pulled the trigger, and this time, the gun was loaded.

The Fort Lewis soldier was sentenced to 28 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his platoon sergeant at their forward operating base in Baghdad.

Army prosecutors originally charged Ayers, 21, with murder in the killing of Sgt. 1st Class David Cooper, Jr., last Sept. 5 at FOB Falcon.

But they accepted the soldier's guilty plea to the reduced charge in exchange for his agreement to serve whichever was less: six years in prison, or a term that a judge would hand down after a sentencing hearing.

The maximum penalty for the crime under military law is 10 years in prison.

Wednesday's hearing at Fort Lewis stretched from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ayers could offer little explanation when the judge asked why he pointed his loaded pistol at Cooper – a man he said he looked up to as a mentor and second father – and fired. They were just inches from each other in their tent.

"I don't know," Ayers replied when the judge, Col. John Head, asked why he fired. "I guess I felt so comfortable pulling the trigger when it wasn't loaded before, that I just did it."

But later he made a tearful apology to Cooper's family and friends.

"They surely do not deserve this heartbreak and loss ... that I have brought upon them," he said. "... I can only hope that those who loved Sgt. 1st Class Cooper will find a small amount of forgiveness, forgiveness that I cannot have for myself."

Cooper, 36, was a 16-year Army veteran. In Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, he was responsible for the performance and well-being of a dozen or so men in his Stryker Mobile Gun System platoon.

In deciding the sentence, Head may have taken into consideration Ayers' claim that Cooper also carried his pistol loaded on the base, in violation of regulations, and Ayers' belief that he was acting under Cooper's guidance that it was acceptable conduct.

Army prosecutors did not dispute the claim.

Fellow soldiers and family members said Cooper was a beloved friend and leader. Before deploying to Iraq in April 2007 with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, he’d been assigned to train soldiers on the new Stryker gun truck – the eight-wheeled armored vehicle with a 105mm cannon.

"He was in the top 10 percent of the armor community, easily," said his friend, Staff Sgt. David Heard, testifying by telephone from Baqouba, Iraq. "He loved being in the hatch. He loved tanking.

"He made you laugh, could turn anything around and made you see the bright side,” Heard said. "It's not here now. It's been a long year for us, we really could use his laughter now."

Cooper's parents, David and Wanda Cooper of Jersey Shore, Pa., said their son wanted to be a soldier from the time he was a little boy. He enlisted in high school, and spent 10 years stationed at Fort Lewis.

He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Also testifying Wednesday were his wife, Michelle, of Puyallup, his brother, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cooper, stationed in Germany, his ex-wife Tracy Cornwell and their 16-year-old twin sons, Drake and Gage.

The boys said although their parents divorced when they were very young, their father maintained a strong relationship with them by phone and e-mail and in occasional visits back home to Pennsylvania.

They would talk like best friends all the time, about sports, movies, video games, girls, the future.

Like other family members who testified Wednesday, they said they couldn't believe the news that their father had been killed – that it had to be some kind of mistake.

"It never crossed my mind that he wasn’t coming back," Gage Cooper said. "He was one of my best friends, and now I don’t have that any more."

The family appeared to be bitterly disappointed and dismayed at the announcement of the sentence, and left the courtroom afterward to speak with Army prosecutors.

Cooper’s family said Ayers' negligence had cost them dearly.

"I won't be able to live knowing there's no justice," Wanda Cooper said. "It was no excuse."

Ayers told the judge the men in his platoon had spent the afternoon cleaning their weapons and were getting ready to go to dinner when Cooper walked up to him in their tent.

He said he pointed his 9mm pistol at Cooper's chest, from about an inch away. Cooper made no reaction. Ayers moved the weapon toward Cooper's shoulder, and while looking at other soldiers across the tent, pulled the trigger.

Ayers' wife, Jennifer, of Federal Way, said her husband loved Cooper "and looked up to him like he was a father."

His mother, Taralee Ayers, agreed.

"He lost a part of his soul," she said, fighting back tears as she looked at her son across the courtroom. "Nobody could punish him worse than he's going to punish himself. He will never forgive himself."

Michael Gilbert is a reporter for The News Tribune in Tacoma

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Winchester 73
April 17, 2008, 04:58 PM
Does the US Army teach basic gun safety?

They certainly did in 1964.
This sounds like cold blooded murder to me.No one with military training could be that stupid,IMO.

FourTeeFive
April 17, 2008, 05:03 PM
This sounds like cold blooded murder to me.No one with military training could be that stupid,IMO.

Certainly sounds like it. Maybe he's thinking a jury would buy his "I didn't know it was loaded" argument?

41magsnub
April 17, 2008, 05:07 PM
They sure did in 1994, I remember an almost beating of a private in basic on the range when he swept a Drill Sergeant.

That said there are a lot of smart folks in the Army, but at the same time there are folks in there who are not exactly America's best and brightest. I observed a lot of stupid things with firearms in the Army, I could buy this as an "accident".

Winchester 73
April 17, 2008, 05:09 PM
Certainly sounds like it. Maybe he's thinking a jury would buy his "I didn't know it was loaded" argument?

Yes.And he only got 28 months for this crime.
Thats very close to getting away with Murder 1,again IMO.

aka108
April 17, 2008, 05:10 PM
Even the Navy taught us.

John Wayne
April 17, 2008, 05:17 PM
While I have no first-hand experience, most of what I've seen has made me concerned, to say the least.

My roommate's cousin, who is currently in the U.S. Navy, was trying to sell me his M&P .40 before he was deployed. He was very knowledgable about guns, but when he showed me the pistol and demonstrated its various features, he did so while covering the muzzle with his hand and pulling the trigger! The magazine was removed, I guess he was trying to show how it wouldn't fire without the magazine inserted, but I don't think I'd risk losing a couple fingers in order to show off Smith and Wesson's safety design prowess :what: That, coupled with a range story about how he and other persons would fire one round out of the pistol and then try to shoot the ejected case while it was still in the air made me less than eager to be anywhere around him.

While at Camp Leujeune, NC to see my best friend deployed, I noticed that several Marines paid no attention to where their weapon was pointed. I even noticed one Marine lying on the ground, his head propped against a backpack and 2" away from the muzzle of an M-249 SAW on a bipod!

Frog48
April 17, 2008, 05:17 PM
The story just doesnt wash. Regardless of whether the trigger pull was an accident, why was the CPL pointing the pistol at the SFC to begin with?

pfc.pennington
April 17, 2008, 05:28 PM
Well just let me say, I just went through basic training in aug 06. The army has drop the standard way down. They give people an m16 that I wouldnt trust with a slingshot. I can remember on more than one occaision, of accidental discharge.

strat81
April 17, 2008, 05:30 PM
I've never been able to serve in the armed forces, but I'd assume they have LOTS of rules. I'd also think The Four Rules are a part of them.

Sounds like murder to me too.

Mikee Loxxer
April 17, 2008, 05:32 PM
I get the impression that their safety training is lacking. A good friend of mine who had spent a year in Iraq went shooting with me one afternoon. We each had a rifle and were on the line ready to fire. My buddy shoots a three or four round group. Without saying anything he puts his rifle (which has a round in the chamber) on safe, sets it on the bench and starts walking down range while I am still on the line with a round in the chamber, safety off, and trigger on the finger. Needless to say I scolded him for this very serious infraction and was left with severe doubt as to how well the military trains it’s soldiers with respect to firearms safety.

Maybe one has to adopt less stringent firearms handling practices in a combat zone but we weren’t in one of those and he should have known better.

ATAShooter
April 17, 2008, 05:40 PM
Even the Navy taught us.

Hell, even the Boyscouts are taught it.

charon
April 17, 2008, 05:46 PM
There was rigid firearm safety instruction in the 1980s. In fact, going on my first civilian indoor range (unmonitored though) was a bit shocking by comparison and today I seek out controlled ranges.

I do remember reading about an incident in one of the safety bulletins where someone in the que to go up to the firing line shot the soldier in front of him during a night fire. It was late into the night after a hard days training and he apparently started following the commands for the tower while in some sort of daze up to commence firing.

NGIB
April 17, 2008, 05:48 PM
Jeez, even the Air Force did and we only shot 1 weapon and a total of 150 rounds in basic...

Floppy_D
April 17, 2008, 05:48 PM
Sadly, in the military, it seems gun safety only becomes a big deal when something goes wrong. It's part of an annual General Military Training (that the average Joe clicks through on a computer in 10 seconds) and it's part of basic, but if the leaders in a command do not emphasize it, it will not be adhered to. If this young man thought he could point a firearm at a comrade, there was inadequate training.

This does not excuse his actions, but points to the weaknesses that may have lead him to believe that his actions were acceptable.

Edit: The firearm safety habits of servicemembers, from my experience, are either fantastic, or terrible, with little middle ground. I would not go to the range with a handful of people I have stood armed watches with.

rero360
April 17, 2008, 06:10 PM
I agree with Floppy, everyone from my unit, being origionally infantry are all top notch when it comes to weapon safety. However some of the people we were deployed with...I wouldn't trust them with a plastic spork, but they were cage kickers, just never had that warrior mentality.

CountGlockula
April 17, 2008, 06:19 PM
"They surely do not deserve this heartbreak and loss ... that I have brought upon them," he said. "... I can only hope that those who loved Sgt. 1st Class Cooper will find a small amount of forgiveness, forgiveness that I cannot have for myself."

Sounds like Ayers just had a life lesson.

Gun safety is taught, but what matters is applying it.

another okie
April 17, 2008, 06:25 PM
There's plenty of training. But remember you are dealing with 18 year olds, who have the capacity to forget everything they are taught five minutes later.

AKCOP
April 17, 2008, 06:26 PM
This is indeed a very sad incident that should not have happened. However teaching is one thing, always following what you are taught is another. I am not trying to justify what happened just saying that s-it happens and it is not always an intentional act, stupidity, yes.
I certainly have had to deal with my share of accidental discharges by police officers who were trained and still found a way to be stupid. My prayers go out to the family of Sgt. Cooper and Cpl Ayers.

spaceCADETzoom
April 17, 2008, 06:32 PM
This isn't a safety issue. There is no need for an outlined rule that says not to point a loaded weapon at another person and pull the trigger. I'm not defaulting to "common sense," it is beyond common sense.

THe convicted guy did all of that, knowingly. He's not "unsafe," he's darn-near homicidal. I'm not sure where anyone gets off in asking if "the army teaches gun safety." It explicitly states that the perpetrator KNEW keeping a loaded weapon on the FOB was illegal. If you knew how restrictive the army is about EVERYTHING (from motorcycles to cars to guns to exercise to walking to drinking water--it's the model of nanny-state)...you'd realize how absolutely maddeningly hilarious that question was.

Ragnar Danneskjold
April 17, 2008, 06:32 PM
I've never been able to serve in the armed forces, but I'd assume they have LOTS of rules. I'd also think The Four Rules are a part of them.


The Four Rules are not taught specifically. Yes common sense gun safety was taught, but a lot of things that we take for granted are left out. And I never heard any instuctors speak of the actual 4 rules as we know them. Also, we do a lot of dry firing, so fingers off the triggers at all times is not emphasised, nor is always checking a weapon when it leaves your sight. At least that was in Basic. Now I'm in Honduars doing MP stuff and we do clear our weapons when we're issued them and when we turn them in. Of course we're not allowed to carry with a chambered round either.

There is a lot of rule shamming in the military in general. There are so many FMs and regs about everything, it's become commonplace to ignore some of them for the sake of efficiency though sometimes laziness as well.

M203Sniper
April 17, 2008, 06:40 PM
A Horrible way to go. "Friendly Fire; isn't" just doesn't cover it.


They taught us how to shoot, the four basic rules, and a whole lot about the rate of fire for each weapon we handled it's range against point and area targets, indirect fire....hell I could type all day.


Semper Fi.

Bazooka Joe71
April 17, 2008, 06:47 PM
He said he pointed his 9mm pistol at Cooper's chest, from about an inch away.

***????????????????

Are you kidding me?

If that isn't cold blooded murder I don't know what is...And that 28 month sentence is more of a joke than this kid.:rolleyes:

I'm not sure what his punishment should be, but there should be a vasectomy in there somewhere.

Gator
April 17, 2008, 06:48 PM
When I was in The Corps ('79-83) there was not much emphasis at all on gun safety. I would frequently admonish guys for pointing rifles at each other; the standard response was "but its not loaded". We were taught to clear our weapons, but not how to responsibly handle them after that.

Then someone got shot, but things didn't change. :banghead:

Sato Ord
April 17, 2008, 08:05 PM
My first inclination was to agree that this guy had used the "I didn't know it was loaded" excuse to get away with murder, and that is still a possibility.

However, when I think back to my original MOS and those who were stationed in a support company with me I remember all of the idiots I wouldn't have trusted with water pistol; loaded or unloaded.

In the Rangers we knew a bit more about weapons and treated them with respect.

I'm sure that the officers who were trying this case took the soldiers job and his familiarity with weapons into account, so I won't sit here and try to armchair quarterback this one.

jakemccoy
April 17, 2008, 08:26 PM
The Four Safety Rules have exceptions when you're professional enough...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj4yUpR1PB0

Rock on.

neededausername
April 17, 2008, 08:43 PM
My brother-in-law, at the time this happened a Lt. in the Marine Corp, literally tackled my sister when she was sweeping my parents. She was showing off her husbands new gun and she knows nothing about guns. He walked into the room, put her on the floor. She was upset because he never keeps his guns loaded. He went over the basic rules with her, and she understood. Seems like he was taught about gun safety.

ClickClickD'oh
April 17, 2008, 08:43 PM
Good god. When I was in, if a soldier pointed their sidearm at anybody, there would have been hell to pay. What kind of squad was that SFC running that his guys thought that was acceptable practice?

sacp81170a
April 17, 2008, 08:45 PM
When I was in Security Police in the USAF, you'd hear about the occasional hot-dog practicing his quick draw and shooting a paper towel dispenser or something. One kid got killed getting into the back of a camper on a missile site (we had camper teams to secure the sites if the alarm system was out and needed repair). His partner was clearing his M-16 preparatory to taking a rest break. He forgot to take the magazine out of the weapon, pulled the charging handle to the rear, put the selector lever on semi and pulled the trigger (steps 3 thru 5 of the clearing procedure). He skipped putting the muzzle in the clearing barrel and taking out the mag(steps 1 and 2). The other guy on the team happened to be opening the back door to the camper at that moment and was struck in the chest from 7-10 ft. away. Partner was DRT.

Given that we carried live rounds every day, I was very serious about weapons safety and would flat walk up someone's back for a violation, especially breaches of muzzle discipline and the "booger hook off the bang switch" rule. Lackadaisical treatment of firearms safety rules flourishes where supervisors don't enforce them. Unfortunately, Sgt. 1st Class Cooper may have been partially responsible for his own death. If a subordinate had pointed a weapon at my chest in the manner described, he might very well have been sporting a broken arm. If I sound like a p***k, then so be it. I'm just as tough on my fellow police officers at the range and on duty, although I've never seen them break the rules like some did in the military.

plexreticle
April 17, 2008, 08:53 PM
I felt firearm safety was taught but not really reinforced.

Someone would clear your weapon for you when you leave the range. Someone would bitch at you if you swept them during an exercise. You would have to use a clearing barrel to go to chow.

My observation is the Army relies more on procedures to keep firearms safe than preaching safe behavior.

sacp81170a
April 17, 2008, 08:56 PM
My observation is the Army relies more on procedures to keep firearms safe than preaching safe behavior.

Then there are some NCO's whose @$$3$ need some kickin' if they won't do their job. 'Nuff said.

plexreticle
April 17, 2008, 08:58 PM
Then there are some NCO's whose @$$3$ need some kickin' if they won't do their job. 'Nuff said.

Very much agreed.

sacp81170a
April 17, 2008, 09:08 PM
taurusowner:

Now I'm in Honduars doing MP stuff and we do clear our weapons when we're issued them and when we turn them in.

JTF Bravo? Heh, I was there in '85. Is Rosarita still a good place to go eat? ;)

bogie
April 17, 2008, 10:32 PM
The induhviduals involved (likely BOTH parties...) probably thought that they were the only folks in the area professional enough...

Treo
April 17, 2008, 10:43 PM
To speak to this specific incedent , if I read correctly Cpl. Ayers stated that he KNEW the pistol was loaded when he shot the Plt. Sgt. I don't think "safety " had anything to do W/it you might as well ask if any one taught cho firearms safety.

As others have said the Army doesn't really teach fire arms safety other than "keep the weapon up & down range"

When you go to the range they line you up and send you through an ammo distribution point right before you actually shoot. after you shoot some one else verifies that your weapon is clear and you go clean it.

When you're not actually on the range you spend a lot of time "training" W/ an unloaded weapon & a lot of the "training " involves pointing your weapon at other people & pulling the trigger.

IMO if basic rules ARE taught the actual practice does more to reenforce bad habits

jakemccoy
April 18, 2008, 02:30 AM
According to the article, Cpl. Ayers assumed the gun was unloaded because he claims the gun was unloaded before...

"I don't know," Ayers replied when the judge, Col. John Head, asked why he fired. "I guess I felt so comfortable pulling the trigger when it wasn't loaded before, that I just did it."


I'm not saying that makes sense. I'm just responding to treo in Post #35.

Deanimator
April 18, 2008, 07:57 AM
The Army did when I was in ROTC and the Army between 1976 and 1984. And the drill sergeants would go upside your head with their range rods if you displayed poor muzzle discipline.

usmarine0352_2005
April 18, 2008, 08:04 AM
The Army shows soldiers how to shoot rifles?

I didn't know that.

:neener:

Bones11b
April 18, 2008, 08:37 AM
Having been an Army Infantry team leader and squad leader, I would feel confident saying my men were taught gun safety. I also have to admit some of the most unsafe gun handling I have seen has also been in the military. As stated by others it all comes down to chain of command. A properly trained driver understands all the personell and equipment on their vehicle are their responsibility. A good medic understands his medical supplies must be kept up to par and readily accessible because persons lives depend on it. A good radio operator carries spare parts and extra batteries because communication can cost or save lives. Every soldier should understand guns are tools and maintaining them and handling them in a safe manner could cost or save lives. I'm now ot of the Army but still stay in contact with my soldiers who are still in. Am proud to say I have every confidence that none of their soldiers would think it appropriate to point a gun at anyone or anything they didn't plan on destroying, loaded, unloaded, or otherwise.

alsaqr
April 18, 2008, 09:10 AM
I often shoot on a military range with active duty Marine and Army troops. These guys are very safety conscious: Every one of them.

riverdog
April 18, 2008, 09:33 AM
He said he pointed his 9mm pistol at Cooper's chest, from about an inch away. Cooper made no reaction. Ayers moved the weapon toward Cooper's shoulder, and while looking at other soldiers across the tent, pulled the trigger.Cooper, 36, was a 16-year Army veteran. In Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, he was responsible for the performance and well-being of a dozen or so men in his Stryker Mobile Gun System platoon.It was Sgt. 1st Class David Cooper's responsibility to train his troops; he failed his men and it cost him his life. One of them killed him doing something that defied common sense and the Army let him off light. There is no way to forgive yourself for such a stupid, unthinking act., but SFC Cooper could have prevented this whole mess and gone home to his family if he had demanded his troops practice basic muzzle discipline.

There's a saying that familiarity breeds contempt; I suspect that's the case here. Contempt for his SFC and contempt for his weapon. If a soldier under your command pointed a pistol at your chest and you knew it wasn't loaded, would you have no reaction? I'd have a severe reaction because it violates muzzle discipline. What reaction would you have if you knew he routinely carried his pistol with a round chambered? You don't sweep your team and you certainly don't point a pistol at a "friends" chest. He shouldn't have been their friend.

XDKingslayer
April 18, 2008, 09:38 AM
This sounds like cold blooded murder to me.No one with military training could be that stupid,IMO.


You would be suprised. It's not stupidity, it's complacency.

I don't think it was cold blooded murder. I can tell you that if a Cpl. in my platoon were to walk up to me and point his pistol at me at point blank range he'd have a millisecond to either pull the trigger or he'd be spending the rest of his career having to go to the head to clean his weapon because it would be lodged squarely up his rear.

Why didn't this Sgt. act? Why did he let him do it?

Simple. Complacency on both sides. They were screwing around. Maybe coming off another boring, uneventful op like the last 3 million they've done and they were screwing around. Cleaning weapons is tearfully boring and bored soldiers cause trouble. They always do.

I watched a Marine stab a fellow marine in the neck accidently when they were screwing around after sitting on a beach all day long in full gear staring at water they couldn't get into.

Not saying what he did wasn't stupid and irresponcible, but I doubt his intention was to kill his Sgt.

Sebastian the Ibis
April 18, 2008, 09:48 AM
28 months for shooting your Sgt. point blank in a war zone!!

The Army needs to teach prosecution and criminal sentencing as much as they need to teach weapons safety!!

isuace
April 18, 2008, 11:12 AM
These are my direct experiences with armed forces personnel and guns.
I went to a public range on public land. I saw a fellow in full army dress (BDU's or whatever they are called) shooting two-handed sideways gangster style. I never made it up to the firing line. I got back in my car and left.
Another time I was at a range open to the public. There was another army fellow who came up to me and told me about how he likes to shoot "gangster style" while he was teaching a female army member how to shoot a pistol. Apparently she had never shot a pistol before, and this knuckle head was teaching her.
Im sorry, but for the most part, when I see military folks at a range I head the other way.

Edit: I suppose I should note that in both cases the offenders were fairly young, low 20's.

Elza
April 18, 2008, 12:30 PM
I went into the Army in ’72. Safety on the range was paramount. You sweep someone and the drill sergeant would take your weapon and make a Popsicle out of you.

However, off the range they weren’t all that concerned. If it were a deliberate act perhaps something would be said but I never saw that happen. When cleaning or just general handling of our weapons they paid little attention.

DBSweetwood
April 18, 2008, 12:45 PM
I am in the same Brigade as these two soldiers, and we are still deployed to Iraq. From what I know of this, if the SFC had lived he would have been in more trouble than the CPL. From what I have heard this was some stupid game that the SFC played with his soldiers. The CPL just didn't properly clear his weapon. Our entire brigade was shoked when this happened and we heard that this was a game the SFC played with his troops. Like I said, if he lived, he would have gotten a harsher sentence than his soldier. And yes we are taught firearms safety, but like everywhere else in the world you have people who think and act like they are above the rules, and so competent that they don't have to do the regular safety checks. It is very unfortunate, but it happens everywhere.

woodybrighton
April 18, 2008, 01:48 PM
seen good and bad weapon drills
stupid people do stupid things

highfive
April 18, 2008, 01:59 PM
certainly did in 1993 you probably will get slap if you did something unsafe. Even now I'm still in the army and we keep remembering safety every time there is a gun around or we are just talking about one.

ochmude
April 18, 2008, 02:15 PM
You would be suprised. It's not stupidity, it's complacency.

I don't think it was cold blooded murder. I can tell you that if a Cpl. in my platoon were to walk up to me and point his pistol at me at point blank range he'd have a millisecond to either pull the trigger or he'd be spending the rest of his career having to go to the head to clean his weapon because it would be lodged squarely up his rear.

Why didn't this Sgt. act? Why did he let him do it?

Simple. Complacency on both sides. They were screwing around. Maybe coming off another boring, uneventful op like the last 3 million they've done and they were screwing around. Cleaning weapons is tearfully boring and bored soldiers cause trouble. They always do.

I watched a Marine stab a fellow marine in the neck accidently when they were screwing around after sitting on a beach all day long in full gear staring at water they couldn't get into.

Not saying what he did wasn't stupid and irresponcible, but I doubt his intention was to kill his Sgt.

I have to 100% agree with all of this. Just finished up 5 years in the Marines, the final year being spent in Iraq, and I can tell you that the saying "Complacency Kills" is no bullsh**. You spend months, even years training to be razor sharp for a deployment. Once you get in country, you do nothing but spend months on end driving up and down the same stretch of road with a bunch of TCN trucks. Everything becomes completely routine, and you have no idea why you worked so hard and trained so hard to do absolutely nothing. Once you reach this point, you're a casualty waiting to happen.

As an NCO, it was MY job to prevent this complacent attitude in my Marines. I knew they were feeling it. Hell, I felt it myself. But if it's tolerated for even a second it will spread like a virus, and someone will die. What sickens me about this situation is I was a corporal, same as the guy in this story. I would NEVER have tolerated this in one of my Marines, and damned sure not in one of my fellow NCOs.

From what is presented in the story, that SFC was not doing his job. This isn't like the civilian world where everyone shares equal responsibility for the 4 safety rules. One of your troops messes up, it's your fault. One of your subordinate NCOs messes up, it's your fault for letting him get promoted. If you allow the lax attitudes and the lowering of standards, it WILL get someone killed (this story is a perfect example).

I do not believe it was murder. I do not believe there was any malicious intent. I believe it was simply a matter of "I've done this a million times before, it's no big deal." I've witnessed that same attitude in my own troops countless times, and did my job by applying neccessary corrective action. So to answer the question, I'm quite certain the Army teaches basic weapons safety. This particular SNCO did not enforce those basic teachings, and the corporal didn't rate to wear the stripes he had. It's an individual failure, not an institutional failure.

Winchester 73
April 18, 2008, 05:47 PM
There is another possible explanation for Cpl.Ayers actions ,although I don't buy it.
He may have come under the complusion of what psychiatry calls a "irresistible impulse" ,a term made famous by Michigan Court Judge John Voelker, writing under the pen name of Robert Traver in the novel, Anatomy of a Murder(1957),film(1959).
Based on a true case ,Traver chronicles the tale of Army Lt.Manion,who after learning of his wifes rape by bar owner Barry Quill,pumps 5 rounds of .45 ACP into the hapless Quill at point blank range.
His defense, devised by his defense attorney, Paul Beigler,is that the Lt. was overcome by this overwhelming impulse.
Great book,great movie and maybe this is the answer.

http://www.answers.com/topic/anatomy-of-a-murder?cat=entertainment
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irresistible_impulse
http://www.buy.com/prod/anatomy-of-a-murder/q/loc/322/40136224.html
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=anatomy+of+a+murder&x=14&y=17

serrano
April 18, 2008, 06:09 PM
My brother-in-law in the Navy was certainly well aware of all the safety rules - it was all very automatic last time we went to the range.

xsquidgator
April 18, 2008, 09:50 PM
From what I read here and my own experiences (USN 1987-95) it's pretty hit or miss. Some military members (especially USA and USMC) really know their small arms stuff, others (USAF and maybe USN too :) ) not so much, with exceptions all over.

Back in my day, I thought the Navy's firearm instruction was a joke. I went a couple of years where the only shooting I did was me and some guys from my ship going to a range on our own time and dime with our own guns, because there wasn't enough time or $ budgeted to qualify everyone on our ship's small arms. The one time I was taken out to qualify with a 45 (1911), there was safety instruction but it was standard military instruction, geared towards the absolute lowest denominator. You know, 5 minutes of instruction on the 4 rules, crammed into an hour or so. I think the sailors on my ship were probably ok kind of safe, if not very capable with the small arms, but like a lot of people here seemed to experience, there were some of them I wouldn't have trusted with my neighbor's cat safety-wise.

My last two years I was an instructor at a shore-based unit, where even sea-returnee staff instructors weren't allowed (even me as a shift supervisor) to qualify on or carry weapons. No, that was allowed only for the security force, a bunch of knuckle-draggers if there ever were any. One morning I came into work and, walking across the quarterdeck of the command, there's a nice hole in the wall of the guard shack, about knee level, and another hole across the entryway from it. One of the brain surgeon guards who was protecting the place had an ND at 0400 and almost blew his foot off with his pistol. Luckily it was at 0400 or something and the entry wasn't full of people coming in for the dya. After that sand-filled clearing barrels went up and supposedly they weren't allowed to carry loaded weapons. But were us nukes allowed to qualify on the pistols? Noooo, just like a college campus, we were supposed to cower behind a desk or something while these lame security forces were going to come save us if the base got attacked (not likely in South Carolina in the early 90s, but still, you get the idea). :cuss:

Neo-Luddite
April 18, 2008, 10:47 PM
In my experience, the Army was *good* about safety on ranges and controls and security of weapons and ammo--but truly missing in the basic fundementals that require an underlying sense of personal responsibility.

The Boy Scouts teach gun safety--the Army, don't count on it.

Drail
April 19, 2008, 07:47 AM
I served in the Vietnam conflict and our weapons training as far as marksmanship was minimal. But I did witness one recruit sweep a DI with an M 16 and he was rapidly put on the deck HARD with a few words that could be clearly heard by everyone on the line. He was removed from the training session. Nobody seem to feel like he didn't deserve it. Made an impression on me. I think most 18 year olds had a little more respect for their elders in those days, unlike the youth of today. In those days of course the Instructors COULD and DID use physical force on recruits that required extra guidance. I don't think this is allowed in today's military. If it were up to me the recruits would be immediately disciplined and discharged if they exhibit any kind of carelessness or horseplay with weapons.

doc2rn
April 19, 2008, 08:09 AM
I believe what the term was Marksmanship Training. Doh! ^ Drail beat me to it.

Ozarks
April 19, 2008, 12:30 PM
It was back in 1970, so I just can't recall all of the details... Our Army training was quite structured. We carried our rifles, only when issued, and we were only issued ammunition under closely controlled situations, IOW, at the range and under strict supervision.

All other times, we were not allowed any ammunition, or even empty magazines. We were supposed to guard something with a rifle with an empty magwell.

In my opinion, the military would be better served running hot ranges after the first visit. After all, if all weapons are always considered loaded, why shouldn't they be? Break one of the basic rules, and recycle him (or her) immediately. A second mistake would lead to an immediate discharge.

woodybrighton
April 19, 2008, 12:57 PM
ND's happen cause people get slack are bone tired or there brain needs to reboot
unfortunatly mistakes with weapons usually kill someone else

SoldiersMother
May 19, 2008, 11:44 AM
I am the Mother of SFC David A. Cooper, Jr. He was killed by Ayers in Iraq, Sept. 5, 2007. I still can't believe that he only received 28 months for killing my son. He said he didn't know the gun was loaded, but then he said that my son carried a loaded weapon on the FOB, so he thought it was OK for him to do that. So how could he have not known his weapon was loaded. My family flew out to Washington to Ft. Lewis to testify as to what kind of person my son was and how this has changed our lives. We spilled our guts out to the judge and I feel like he didn't even care how we felt. It was a fast way to get this court martial over with and forget about my son and the years that he spent in the Army. He joined the reserves when he was a junior in high school and went full time 3 years later spending most of his short life (36 years) in the Army. He knew how important gun safety was and I am sure he would not have allowed this soldier to point weapons at other soldiers, loaded or otherwise. I don't understand why he did it and I guess I will never know, but he does deserve to spend more time in prison than 28 months. Im my eyes he is a murderer. I will never forgive him for what he has done to my son.

Treo
May 19, 2008, 12:06 PM
MA'AM,

On behalf of THR please let me express my most heartfelt sympathies for the loss of your son.

dogmush
May 19, 2008, 12:11 PM
Ma'am, my heart goes out to you, and I think Cpl. Ayers did get off a light here, but I have to add, that Cpl's entire chain of command failed. The Army does teach firearms safety in Basic, and it's reinforced before a range trip. But in a combat zone that kind of safety enforcement is the job of the leadership.

alsaqr
May 19, 2008, 01:23 PM
Yes, the US Army still does teach gun safety. Soldiers as a group are very safe with guns. There idiots in civilian life, in the ranks of LEOs and in the US military.

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