II MEF SOTG hones snipers' skills

7 Feb 2007 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Lyttle

Marine graduates of the Scout Sniper Basic Course, along with Special Weapons and Tactics officials from Rock Hill, S.C., are improving their combat capabilities in a three-week Urban Sniper Training Course at Stone Bay with Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

“The overall focus of the course is to get shooters to fire to the capabilities of their weapons systems,” said Sgt. Travis Toney, Urban Sniper Course lead instructor, SOTG, II MEF. “We also train students to achieve instant incapacitation of an enemy in a combat situation.”

The course helps snipers develop control and accuracy in firing and handling several weapons systems, including the M40 A3 sniper rifle, in an urban warfare environment.

Toney described key parts of the course to Marine and law enforcement snipers alike, to hone in on their skills previously learned from sniper school.

“In week one, the course started with shooters attaining a zero with their rifle. This (calibration) assures their point of aim is matched with their point of impact on a target,” Toney said.

Each day, the weapon is adjusted to the correct zero point. Cpl. Eric Rue, Urban Sniper Course instructor, described the most important shot of each training day, called a cold bore shot.

“A clean rifle may contain solvents in the barrel, and the first shot will always differ from the rest after the barrel has built up carbon and copper residue,” Rue said. “Every training day, snipers will collect data from a cold bore shot. We put the biggest emphasis on it because a sniper’s first shot is his most important.”

During their training and for combat purposes, the importance of the cold bore shot involves an accurate hit in a silhouette target’s T-box, which is a sketch of a combatant’s face, with an outlined T-shaped section. Toney said a round striking an enemy’s lower brainstem through the T-box will cease all functions of the body, including voluntary and involuntary motor skills, eliminating the threat.

After a cold bore shot, color dot drills are performed, which consist of multiple targets that shooters engage on their own silhouette.

“Color dot drills get the shooters mind set on looking for color targets, emphasizing a common trend for shooting multiple threats. Each drill is conducted with five rounds fired in 12 seconds. While firing, shooters exercise rapid bolt manipulation, which resets the rifle for follow-on shots.”

In week two, color dot drills are combined with command drills, enabling shooters to fire on an instructor’s commands.

“A team coordinates on assigned numbers,” Rue said. “Each number corresponds to an action performed by members of a crisis team to create a deliberate assault on a key target.”

Commands given during the drill require close attention from shooters. For realism, they lay in a prone position wearing a full combat load. As they prepare to fire from 100, then 200 yards, preparatory commands are recited. Shooters will hear a repeated, “I have control, standby”, followed by either a countdown from five, a short count from three, a command to compromise and fire, or to abort fire.

Toney said the command drills are performed in a series of actions and when performed correctly, help achieve a shock and surprise on an enemy.

In week three, shooters continue their rigorous training schedule with events such as explosive window breaching, aerial platform shooting and .50-caliber weapons. They also conquer the stress course, which tests their ability in firing, moving and maintaining communication among team members.

The Urban Sniper Course takes qualified snipers and allows them to further their accuracy training, understand evolutions of warfare and execute in a crisis situation. Will Rivera, a former scout observer with 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, will take this training back to Rock Hill where he serves as a patrol officer and S.W.A.T. team member.

“I’ve completed two other civilian sniper schools, and this is far and beyond what S.W.A.T. members learn anywhere else,” Rivera said. “The instructors are extremely knowledgeable and thorough. The training here for long-range shooting is impeccable. Also, training at Camp Lejeune really brings back memories.”

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