How I Would Train a Company Now" by Captain Robert C. Gates, Infantry, ITALY:
“If I had to train a rifle company again, I would stress the following:
Basic discipline, by which I mean smart saluting, alertness of bearing, cleanliness and neatness of person, clothing, and equipment — shoes shined, hair cut, etc. Get perfection in this early, as it is the basis of much later training.
Combat firing on a course which included a lot of surprise targets. Proper distribution of small arms fire over a suspected target area is very important.
Use of the rifle sling, particularly in combat firing. Most men fail to use it even when in a defensive or other situation where its use is perfectly practicable. Practice until the use of the sling is so natural that a man must consciously decide not to use it when the situation is such that its use is inappropriate.
Sniper training for the upper 20 percent qualified in marksmanship in each rifle platoon. Organize at least two 3-man sniper teams in each platoon. Allowing for casualties and sickness, you could count on having about two 2 man teams in each platoon in combat. A sniper’s rifle and a pair of binoculars per team are essential.
BAR training to be given to every man in the squad until he has a thorough knowledge of the weapon. It is one of our more effective weapons but must be in the hands of a trained man to be really valuable. A BAR man in one of our companies got twenty Germans ‘for sure’ in one hour during one of their counterattacks; this was one-half the casualties his platoon inflicted.
Scouting and patrolling need plenty of emphasis. My company landed in Sicily with about 7 noncommissioned officers and 25 privates efficient in this. As a result, they were worked to death. There numbers became reduced and the replacements that we received knew little about the subject. Therefore, our patrolling grew progressively weaker as the campaign went on. This training should include passage of minefields, compass work and map reading, and patrolling against actual enemy groups.
Terrain appreciation, to teach the men advantages and disadvantages of terrain features. Teach them to visualize how the ground on which you are located looks from the enemy’s viewpoint, i. e., what he can see and what he can’t see; where you can take positions unobserved, etc.
Camouflage and camouflage discipline, particularly the discipline. Pound into the men the necessity of not making trails, not moving around when the enemy can observe your position, and similar matters, until each man always thinks about it.
Organization of the squad chain of leadership to the point where if only two men are left in the squad they will know automatically which one is the leader. Keep the squad organized this way regardless of casualties and consequent replacements.
The weapons platoon should be worked into the company team to a point where the company commander habitually uses it to its utmost capacity. Too often, the 81mm mortars and the artillery are called on to accomplish work that could be handled by the weapons platoon.
Living in the field under adverse circumstances should be taught. This means that the men should know how to cope with cold, rain, snow, mud, and ice, when they are on the front line for many days. The men should know how to put a shelter half over a foxhole or slit trench, leaving a small hole through which to observe and to fire. They should know that they must remove the shelter half and re-camouflage the trench or hole whenever the weather clears. They should also be trained to remove their shoes and socks each day and massage their feet. Such training will really pay dividends.
Messengers should receive specialized training in scouting and patrolling, make them practice and practice until they can repeat a simple verbal message exactly as it was given to them. Do not permit them the slightest deviation from the wording of the message. Also these men should receive intelligence training, as frequently they have opportunities to see and report things of value to the commander. All messengers in my regiment have been sent to an intelligence school and it has helped.
In selecting noncommissioned officers, I am convinced that steadiness is the first asset, resourcefulness is the second, and intellect only third.”