Force-on-Force Ammunition Reality-Based Training Ensures Soldiers Are Combat-Ready

By Jack Tilley, Sergeant Major of the Army, retired, who serves on the advisory board for UTM

UTM Man Marker Round Ammo
UTM Man Marker Round Ammo

North Branch, NJ –-( For hundreds of years, the bullet has been a mainstay in combat.

A critical component in warfare, the bullet has not significantly changed in design throughout the course of history and various conflicts. Looking specifically at the rifle bullet, some might argue that the last great improvement happened in 1882, when Major Eduard Rubin, director of the Swiss Army Laboratory at Thun, invented the copper-jacketed bullet — an elongated bullet with a lead core in a copper jacket.

That last innovation happened nearly 130 years ago.

As a member of the military for 37 years and Sergeant Major of the Army for four years, I would argue that a major innovation happened to the rifle bullet much more recently, with the introduction of the Man Marker Round (MMR), the first technology specifically designed, engineered and expertly manufactured for reality-based training.

As part of the Army’s Close Combat Mission Capability Kit (CCMCK), this new innovative, force-on-force training ammunition is helping to save lives. Force-on-force training ammunition demonstrates a major shift in the world of ammunition, its impact is sure to be documented in future history books. Specifically, the MMR’s introduction to the Army and other divisions of the military is making troops more adept in close combat warfare.

The military and in my experience, the Army, is a family in the truest sense of the word. The most devastating experience in the world is to lose a member of your family. Staying proficient allows soldiers to take better care of one another and ensure a safe return home. I’ve always said that Commanders and Sergeants Major at every level and within every command need to keep an eye out for new technology that will help to bring more members of our military family back from battle safely.

UTM Blue Man Marker Round Mags
UTM Blue Man Marker Round Mags

Most force-on-force training ammunition systems can help improve proficiency by:

  • Allowing soldiers to train with their service weapons, increasing operator proficiency with the weapon used in real-life combat. I’ve heard troops who’ve returned from tours in Iraq say that they wished they had access to these new weapon systems years ago.
  • Placing a renewed focus on the basic drills and scenarios they’ll face in close combat and urban warfare. It’s critical that we expose our soldiers to the stress they’ll face in military combat prior to deployment.
  • Not having to travel to a range. In the past, if you wanted to train troops for live fire combat, you typically had to travel to a range and fire live weapons at paper targets. The costs associated with this program are very high. Now with realistic force-on-force training ammunition, soldiers can train on base and experience the psychological implications using force-on-force training and being shot without deadly consequences.

In reality-based training, the threat of consequence is paramount – it’s what changes or affirms behavior. Effective reality-based training incorporates both visual and pain penalty consequences.

As a young soldier I participated in various training programs prior to my deployment to Vietnam. Similar to today’s conflicts in the Middle East, we had to alter our training strategy to better align with combat scenarios we’d face in the jungles of Southeast Asia. We learned to dig fox holes and engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. We couldn’t simply apply the training created for other conflicts and expect success. This same modified approach needs to be applied to today’s close combat training.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the budget constraints faced by all divisions of military. For years, the United States has been battling numerous wars and the cost associated with these conflicts is enormous. The development and implementation of new technologies that improve effectiveness and save federal funds should be looked upon favorably by all.

Leveraging Force-on-Force Training Ammunition to Improve Training
I’m excited about the promise of new force-on-force training ammunition and its incorporation into Army education. Innovative force-on-force training ammunition systems are available and approved for use right now, so we should be smart and utilize these systems to the best of our ability.

My advice to all active duty soldiers is to make sure they are sufficiently prepared to go to war. These new products and training programs allow squad leaders and platoon Sergeants to conduct more realistic battle drills before entering the violent and chaotic battle zone. We now have the ability to customize our training for the unique encounters our service men and women face. Building force-on-force training ammunition and training concepts into battle drills and mission rehearsals will condition soldiers to positively react to new situations in a split second.

We all know that weapon and tactical aptitude are perishable skills that can fade over time. New force-on-force training ammunition enables troops to train the way they are going to fight. While the technology won’t drastically change the way we fire weapon systems, it will add to the proficiency of effective combat training. Since soldiers can use their service weapon in training, loading the magazine and firing will recreate an immediate action, similar to what they’ll face in war.

UTM and its training division Phoenix RBT Solutions, currently the largest provider to the CCMCK program, is one example of a company that is making great strides to help prepare troops with reality-based training without real world consequences.

The US remains the best fighting force in the world. We are extremely skilled in how to fight a war. The key to our continued success lies in our ability to sustain our proficiency over time.

In the end, we need to ensure all our soldiers come home safely. Success on the battlefield is not an accident. Training by senior NCOs must remain the critical focus of our Army programs because that’s what best prepares our troops for combat.

It is my firm belief that the more sweat we expend in training, the less blood will be shed in war. Utilizing new force-on-force training ammunition systems provides a return on our investment and increases the chances our troops return from combat alive and well.

About Jack Tilley, Sergeant Major of the Army, retired:
A native of Vancouver, Washington, Jack was sworn in as the 12th Sergeant Major of the Army on June 23, 2000, and served until January 15, 2004. A career soldier, he has held many leadership positions within the Department of the Army and Unified Command environments. As Sergeant Major of the Army, Tilley served as the Army Chief of Staff’s personal advisor on all enlisted-related matters, particularly in areas affecting soldier training and quality of life.

He sits on a wide variety of councils and boards that make decisions affecting enlisted soldiers and their families and is routinely invited to testify before Congress. A Vietnam War veteran, Jack has held a variety of important leadership positions throughout his 34-year career including tank commander, section leader, drill sergeant, platoon sergeant, senior instructor, operations sergeant, first sergeant and command sergeant major. His military education includes the First Sergeants Course and the Sergeants Major Academy.

Among his numerous awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star with V Device, Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Vietnam Service and Campaign Medals.

About UTM

Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM) is a leading provider of weapon conversions and training ammunition for armed forces and law enforcement agencies around the world. With manufacturing facilities in the US and England, the company’s patented products are designed to simulate realistic training to better prepare soldiers and law enforcement officers for their missions. UTM provides a complete non-lethal training system solution for use with 5.56mm, 9mm, .357cal and .40 cal weapons. UTM offers man marker rounds (MMR), target bullet rounds (TBR) and blanks (silent blank rounds & battlefield blank rounds) for use in pistols, rifles, submachine gun (SMG) and selected machine guns. Products are available on the GSA schedule, contract number, GS-07F-5749P. For more information visit:

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