Why do authors need the services of a Military Technical Advisor?

This is a question that has been asked of me since I first posted that such assistance is now available. I’ll try to explain this as simply as I can.

It would appear that with the rising trend and popularity of self-publishing outlets, pretty much anyone and everyone is pumping out the story they always wanted to tell. While this is, at times, a good thing at other times it’s not.

Let me try to delicately put this without stepping on too many toes or royally pissing people off.

Writers need to do at least the bare minimum research no matter what their story is about. Those that don’t will end up looking like morons.

Sounds harsh, I know.

What I find amazing in this day and age is the lack of due diligence research and basic common sense. You can’t base your knowledge of the military and firearms off Hollywood movies and bad late night television.

Here’s a good example of poor research:

M60s, hailing from the 1970’s. They were good, solid weapons, much like the trucks. Each of the six guns had seen action in Vietnam. There, while still attached to the air cavalry, they had been blooded and transformed from complex machines into killing tools.’ Machine guns are relatively complex to begin with, just ask anyone who has ever had to strip down and reassemble one.

This passage was used in a contemporary novella. What’s wrong with it?

To dissect this statement, the M60 is the US military’s light weight machine gun (LWMG) that has been in service since 1957. That’s a long time. But for M60s from the Vietnam era to still be in use today? Not likely. Those M60s from that time frame have all been stripped down,  destroyed  and replaced by newer models of the M60 and/or the M249 and the M240. That holds true for almost every unit within the US military machine including National Guard and Reserve units.

Sure, some M60s are still in use but not from the 1970s or the Vietnam conflict.

That’s the point I’m making.

The author that put this statement into his book was a first time author that went straight to self-publishing and sadly didn’t do basic research. That is not in any way a slight against self-publishing, its a statement for better research. There were other issues wrong with this work as well but those were more formatting and grammar type issues.

Not to pick on new authors only, I’ll throw down this from a well established, New York Times bestselling author.

Up the trail, Barnes had found a niche between some rocks and had his M249 SAW – Squad Automatic Weapon- up on its tripod.’

This sentence, given the context, would have you think this was a stationary position. Right? After all, you don’t normally tripod mount weapons unless you’re setting up a defensive position.

But, that wasn’t the case. The story leading up to this point is about a group of 15 Rangers infiltrating then extracting from the mountains of Pakistan. This was a total covert, under cover of darkness operation, hiking up and down the mountains searching for their target. The above sentence is how the Rangers react when hostiles show up as they are  heading to their extraction point.

Here’s an excerpt taken from the Army Study Guide on using the M249 with a tripod:

The M122 tripod provides a stable mount for the M249, and it permits a higher degree of accuracy and control. The tripod is recommended for all marksmanship training and defensive employment.’

But, there is one more step that needs to be done with the M249 before it can be employed on a tripod:

(6) After the M249 is attached and secured to the tripod, the gunner must attach a special ammunition adapter to the M249. He inserts the adapter into the magazine well, as if inserting a magazine. This procedure allows the gunner to use the 200-round drum of ammunition.

That wasn’t even mentioned or described. Consider how difficult it would be to carry the M249 on its tripod. Not to mention the time wasted setting up the tripod and adjusting the M249.

The SAW gunner can easily fire the weapon without the tripod.

What’s the big deal you may ask?

Here’s the problem.

Why would anyone, especially a Ranger, drag along a 20lb+ tripod when the M249 has an integral bipod? The tripod in this instance is non-mission essential, total excess baggage and takes up weight that could be better suited for more ammunition. And the weapon in question is not being used for a static, stationary, defensive position. Anyone who’s ever humped a ruck over any distance knows that weight is your enemy.

While this may not seem like a big issue, it is for the readers of this particular author as he does not make this type of mistake.

But wait, there’s more in that same novel.

Chavez slung his MP5, drew his suppressed MK23, stood up, and slid down the hall until he was within arm’s reach of the door. It swung open, and a figure stepped out. Chavez took a half-second, saw the AK47 slung across the man’s chest, then put a round above his right ear.’

Suspenseful and action packed no doubt but accurate? Not very likely. Chavez’s actions potentially jeopardized the operation and the safety and security of his team not to mention the hostages they were planning on rescuing.

H&K MP5 Suppressed SMG

H&K MK23 Suppressed Handgun


Leading up to this event, the team is described as having HK MP5SD3, an integrally suppressed submachine gun and the MK23 suppressed handgun. Think about this for a moment.

Why would a highly trained operative, Chavez, switch from the MP5 to a handgun? He has to walk down the hall to locate his target and the MP5 is far more accurate than a sidearm for numerous reasons given the described event and can put out 3 rounds into the target instead of one round in an almost physical contact engagement as described. He could have engaged the hostile from a further distance eliminating the risk of exposure from walking down the hall to get closer.

Any high-speed tactical operator will go with his primary weapon over his secondary every time unless the primary is out of ammunition or has malfunctioned.

That statement just reeks of poor research. Given the author’s previous books, this one, his latest, is a mere shadow of his other works; chock full of poorly written descriptions and bad detail. That same author had previously been invited to the Pentagon and other military installations and has an unprecedented level of access to military units so this type of mistake is shocking.

As you can see, it’s not just new authors but also established best-selling authors that need a Military Technical Advisor whom they can ask questions to, bounce ideas off of, and generally use  as a sounding board.


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