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FEATURE/Refresher shooting program for Taiwanese reservists expanded

06/10/2024 03:45 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

By Matt Yu, Wu Shu-wei and Joseph Yeh, CNA reporters

Amid rising military threats from China, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Taiwan launched a rifle practice program last year for qualified reservists, offering them a chance to hone their shooting skills, and the MND has now expanded the initiative to a larger number of training camps.

The training program, which is part of the ongoing efforts of Taiwan's government to improve the combat readiness of the nation's reserve forces, started with a one-day training camp in four municipalities -- Miaoli County, Hualien County, Taichung and Kaohsiung in the north, east, center and south of the country, respectively.

Applications for the 2023 program were open to reservists who had served in the military less than 12 years prior and had not participated in the annual compulsory reservist training that year.

Sixty applicants were selected for each camp, and their training involved practice shooting with military-issued T91 assault rifles. They were each required to fire at least 70 rounds of live bullets, in standing, kneeling and prone positions, aiming at targets 25 to 300 meters away.

That inaugural program received positive reviews from participants and defense experts alike, prompting the MND to expand the initiative this year to 18 training camps at reservist bases across the country, with each camp catering for fewer than 20 reservists.

While a registration fee of NT$220 (US$6.78) per person was required last year, there was no fee this year.

CNA file photo
CNA file photo

However, the training period was reduced from a full day to half day, according to Wang Shen-yuan (王伸元), secretary-general of the Yunlin County National Defense Education Association, who took part in the program last year and this year.

Wang further told CNA that the rifles used in this year's training program were the older T65K2 models, and each reservist fired only 48 rounds of bullets, all from a prone position, aiming at targets 25 to 75 meters away.

Several other reservists who took part in both programs also said there was not enough rifle practice this year.

The MND should arrange different levels of rifle shooting practice, as not everyone has the same skills, a reservist surnamed Yang (楊) suggested in an interview with CNA.

Chi Yung-yun (紀東昀), a professor at Hungkuang University in Taichung who also participated in both programs, told CNA that the rifle practice should again include at least three different shooting positions, as in the previous year, to make it "more realistic and practical."

Soldiers wearing virtual reality gear take part in a battleground training exercise a military facility, which was opened at the National Defense Medical Center in Neihu District, Taipei in April 2024. Photo : CNA
Soldiers wearing virtual reality gear take part in a battleground training exercise a military facility, which was opened at the National Defense Medical Center in Neihu District, Taipei in April 2024. Photo : CNA

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), also suggested that the MND gradually increase the number of rifle shooting rounds in future reservist training programs.

Taiwan's military could learn from the example of Lithuania, which established private-run but military-backed shooting ranges around the country to improve its all-out defense, Su said.

Commenting on the changes in this year's training program, Han Gan-ming (韓岡明), a retired one-star-general and former head of the MND's All-out Defense Mobilization Office, said that 48 rounds of live rifle shooting over a 4-hour period is enough to refresh a reservist's training on a yearly basis.

Also offering some suggestions, Han, who is now a member of the INDSR, said that in light of Taiwan's strict gun controls, it might be a feasible plan for local governments around the country to first establish simulator shooting ranges, which would be a better way for reservists and other members of the public to familiarize themselves with rifles.

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