A 29-year-old captain who recently assumed the helm of the IDF’s Sniper School, Hartman formerly headed the army’s Marksmanship School, which he reorganized from scratch. He was “in charge of shooting for the whole Israeli army,” he recalls.
“Every bullet that’s shot in the army is [fired the way] I taught someone to do.”
This is no small feat for any immigrant, especially an American who left the California beaches 10 years ago in search of himself and wound up in an IDF uniform.
Hartman, who had never used a rifle until he came to Israel, turned out to be a crack shot. When he joined the army a decade ago his bullets hit in a small grouping on the target and shocked the staff. His commanders would bring people just to watch this neophyte shoot. Hartman has won the IDF shooting championship six times.
Historically, Israeli soldiers have been notoriously bad shots. The first time the vast majority of Israeli youth shoot a weapon is during basic training.
“When I was in basic training we did only two days of shooting training,” says Hartman.
“Now there is a schedule for every step in the army. There is a list of exercises that every soldier must do,” Hartman adds.
Recruits now have a total of 42 lessons in seven weeks of training and are recording a stunning 86.9 percent accuracy rate on the range.
“When I started we were around 5 to 7 percent. We would hit the target five out of every 100 shots fired. And now we are close to 90 hits out of 100.
“We are by far the army that shoots the best in the world,” Hartman continues. “What the army has realized…is that a soldier is not a soldier if he doesn’t know how to shoot.”
Four years ago, when Hartman took over the Marksmanship School, “no one in the IDF thought marksmanship was important.”
The first thing he did in his campaign to improve marksmanship was to create an awareness of the need for proper, orderly training. Then he designed a course of instruction that he believed would turn the soldiers into professionals.
“My field is motivation. If you are not motivated to shoot you are not going to hit the target, even if you know what to do. You have to want to hit the target.
“I try not to offend anyone, but I’m in a position where I have to go to high-ranking officers and tell them they’ve been doing a lot of stuff wrong. Tell them to wake up and smell the coffee. We’re doing things better now,” he says.