The Weapon Training Simulation System (WTSS) is readily available, easy to access, and an excellent system for JNCOs to use to develop the individual and collective skills of their section. The majority of JNCOs will be able to organise bookings at the WTSS through their PL HQ and Operations Cell. One of the advantages of the WTSS is the ease of making a booking via the Training Area Safety & Management Information System (TASMIS). A tip is to provide a number of options of dates and times that work for your section through to your Operations Cell, with all of the details they will require to make a booking on your behalf.
The WTSS has many benefits, ranging from time-saving to reducing the amount of resources required to plan and run a range shoot. The majority of members are likely familiar with the WTSS as a system that provides training before live shoots, and for the quick and easy conduct of an AIRN shoots. JNCO tips are that you and your section should use the WTSS as often as you can, not just for AIRN but for practices with the rifle and other weapon systems that your soldiers may be qualified on. The advantages of the WTSS is that it can be used frequently, it saves travel time (there are some 26 WTSS across the ADF), it uses fewer resources (vehicles, fuel and ammunition) and can be conducted with just your section at a time of your choosing.
Your unit or COY/SQN will have a training program, and your PL/TP may also have one. Become familiar with the program and identify blank spaces where you have room to conduct section-level training. Plan your use of these blank spaces and when you can attend the WTSS. Once you have a WTSS bookings confirmed, you can conduct lead up training to ensure your members are confident with their weapon handling skills and familiar with the practices to be conducted. If you are not very familiar with running a WTSS shoot, review the WTSS standing orders and the words of command to conduct the practice. Ensure that you arrive early so you can receive the OIC brief from the WTSS operator before your section arrives. That way, training can start almost immediately.
If your section attends the WTSS with other members from your unit, be prepared to fill a role in the overall practice (covering for the OIC, assisting with clearances and conducting concurrent training, etc). As a JNCO, a good tip is to always have some training in your back pocket that you can conduct with your section at a moment’s notice, if free time unexpectedly appears. Use any spare time the section may have waiting at the WTSS to bone up on things like marksmanship principles, dry firing, and adopting different firing positions. Provide a last-minute review of the practice/s before entering the WTSS. This way your section will be fully prepared and able to maximise its time in the WTSS and achieve far better results.
The WTSS provides a number of options for rifle practices, different weapons systems, different environments (such as night shooting), and scenarios for your section such as attack or defence and quick decision exercises (QDE). No matter what scenario you use, it is important that your members understand the practice, the scenario or QDE before it commences. Ensure you brief the scenario or QDE and deliver supporting orders so that your soldiers understand the situation, mission, your intent and their ‘actions on’ during the practice. If you don’t brief or deliver orders prior to conducting scenarios or QDEs, your section will not get the full benefits of the training and your soldiers will not fully appreciate the capabilities of the WTSS.
Treat the WTSS as if it were a live firing range and aim to make the training as realistic as possible; wear the appropriate dress and equipment and build upon any lead up training you have conducted. While you are inside the WTSS, heed the advice provided by the WTSS operator. They are trained in all of the programs that the WTSS provides and know how best to fully utilise the system to improve everyone’s combat shooting. The operator is able to play back each shot, so that you can see if your soldiers are applying the appropriate marksmanship principles. This allows you to make decisions on who may require additional coaching.
Develop your soldiers by providing them with the opportunity to organise a shoot for your section on your behalf. Keep in mind that you, or another member who is qualified for that type of practice, is still required to be the OIC. The OIC can, however, supervise more junior soldiers giving the words of command for more development. If you want to participate in the shoot yourself, you will have to ensure your LCPL is qualified and ready for you to hand OIC duties to. Or, have someone else attend and be the OIC while you participate with your section and/or deliver fire control orders during scenarios.
Whatever practice you decide to do, ensure that it is well planned, taken seriously and supports you and your soldiers developing their combat shooting skills.
SGT and LT observations
Make the most of all the capabilities and opportunities that exist within the WTSS. For example, undertake different serials, such as a section defence or urban scenario, and use different weapons to keep training interesting, challenging and realistic. Consider doing this with another sub-units too.
Learn what different training serials are available in the WTSS, and plan to use them as you develop and build the training of your team. Once you have a plan, make sure to book the WTSS well in advance and ideally have it booked regularly (monthly, or bi-monthly). Promulgate your planned training. Also, prepare for additional scenario serials you might use for additional training if you find you have spare time in the WTSS.
Invite along someone who is an expert shooter so they can provide coaching. If they can’t attend, conduct training of the fundamentals beforehand so that your soldiers are practiced with the shoot. Try to use the technology in the facility to its maximum capability.
Allocate sufficient time for full utilisation of the facility, and exploit its full potential with concurrent activity/coaching, beyond the AIRN requirement. Consider having a bullring of other activities, to get the most out of the training time.
Do your CPLs know how to use the WTSS and do they understand ranges? Show your CPLs how to check TASMIS, book shoots and run a WTSS session. Expose your PTEs to the role of a CPL at WTSS too. Prepare your soldiers for promotion.
Conduct rehearsals the day before using the WTSS. Then use the WTSS to build knowledge and competence before doing a live shoot. This is a particularly good procedure for direct fire support weapons.
Motivate your soldiers. Try to develop your soldiers’ skills by implementing a competition, and 'shooter of the quarter' award for the ‘sharp shooter’ within your team. In addition to recognising the best shooters, recognise the most improved.
Utilise the expertise of the WTSS operator. They normally have significant shooting backgrounds and are subject matter experts. They may be able to help develop a training serial suitable for your corps and trade. Also, use small arms coaches when possible to provide feedback rather than just conducting a practice.
Some units and some trades find it very difficult to have sufficient time to attend the WTSS beyond AIRN shoots, much less more advanced practices and training to develop the skills of junior soldiers. If that’s you, discuss this with your chain of command to find a solution.
Other tips provided are as follows:
- Utilise knowledge of the ADF’s Land Range Safety Branch. Check out their website  and if in doubt reach out to them.
- Design your training so that you can build on it, and perhaps lead up to an attempt at ‘crossed rifles’. All training should have a planned outcome. Don’t just do random shoots.
- Make sure you, or someone, has control of the WTSS shoot and avoid distractions. Ensure the training is treated seriously, but in a relaxed and professional learning environment.
- Turn up on time, and treat the WTSS operator as you would like to be treated.
- Treat safety in the WTSS the same as you would for a live fire range.
- Give your soldiers a chance to conduct a shoot focused on developing their firing position and trying new things to see what works.
- Make sure soldiers are applying the marksmanship principles. If any soldier struggles, then track their progress and help them to get better. Make sure they have a shooting coach.
- Be brilliant at the basics before moving forward.
- Train to improve fire control orders and battle behaviour in a controlled environment.
- For Reservists, don't be stuck in the mindset that all training must happen on Tuesday.
- Live shooting is the best training experience, but is made more valuable and successful by simulation.
We regularly used the WTSS for 12.7mm MG training when we couldn't get access to a sea range due to weather.
Members were able to conduct their theory lessons in a classroom and complete their practical shoots in the WTSS prior to a culminating exercise at the range with live weapons and ammunition.
This article provides some tips for those using and coordinating WTSS shoots, to make the training more imaginative, fruitful and time efficient. Implementing many of these will ensure soldiers improve their shooting skills, and help motivate them to do so. It will also help soldiers achieve good results from a live fire range, which is the culmination of the WTSS training.