Recently I watched some paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division train for deployment to Iraq. At one training site engineers had constructed a roofless house with thick walls—plywood covering stacked tires—some fifteen feet high and topped with a catwalk for observers. Working in groups of five, the paratroopers gathered by the entrance in tight formations, chest to back, each man keenly aware of everyone’s location. On a signal from the leader—usually the second man in line—the point man battered open the first door and the team rushed in.
They moved quickly and methodically from room to room, rifles shoulder high, firing disciplined bursts of three rounds at life-sized targets positioned inside. Often the muzzles of their weapons were just a foot away from a buddy. The first man in had to trust that the second man would immediately cover the other side of the room—the blind spot. Any one of them acting carelessly might have shot a buddy in the back. So, of necessity, the paratroopers’ movements were well-choreographed—quick and deadly.
When I told my wife about the exercise, she asked if I’d ever trained with live ammunition during my time in the Army, and I said I had. “What was that like?” she wanted to know. “Well, working with live ammunition flying all over the place tends to focus your thinking,” I said.