The philosophy of discipline has adjusted to changing conditions. As more and more impact has gone into the hitting power of weapons, necessitating ever widening deployments in the forces of battle, the quality of the initiative in the individual has become the most praised of the military virtues. It has been readily seen that the prevailing tactical conditions increased the problem of unit coherence in combat. The only offset for this difficulty was to train for a higher degree of individual courage, comprehension of situation, and self-starting character in the soldier.
Training, according to William L. Hauser, ‘is habituation’. The soldier, in peacetime and in wartime, is required to ‘practice his individual duties over and over and over again, until he has learned them so well that he can perform by rote under the most distracting of circumstances’. Threat of death or maiming, according to Hauser, was ‘surely the ultimate distraction’. Unless the soldier had been drilled in his tasks to the point of boredom, he could not ‘be expected to keep fighting … under the stresses of shot and shell, confusion, uncertainty, and the infectious fear of his comrades.
Hew Strachan has postulated that training has five fundamental functions over and above that of imparting the basic grammar of military service. Like Hauser, he has argued that training creates an ‘instinctive’ reaction to certain tactical circumstances and that it enables soldiers ‘to come to grips with innovative technologies and to master them’.