Marine Corps Base Camp Foster, Okinawa -- After sneaking into secure positions in Combat Town and sighting in on their targets, they listen to the countdown, “Five, four, three, two,” boom! Scout sniper teams have just taken down four simulated enemy targets with what sounded like a single shot.
For scout snipers with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, this training scenario was one of many conducted during the III Marine Expeditionary Force Urban Sniper Course May 7-25. The course mirrors actual combat operations in urban terrain.
In combat, snipers have the mission to minimize threats with long range precision shooting in support of Marines conducting operations, said course instructor Staff Sgt. Nicholas N. Saroka, with III MEF’s Special Operations Training Group.
The three-week course encompassed a variety of shooting exercises and scenarios meant to tighten the scout snipers’ skills and prepare them for missions in urban terrain, Saroka said.
The snipers fired every day of the course to familiarize themselves with their weapons systems. They fired weapons such as M-40 A3 sniper rifles, M-4 A1 Carbine service rifle and the M-107 .50 Caliber Special Application Scoped Rifle, also known as the SASR.
“The training gives them the opportunity to become one with the rifle they take to combat,” said Gunnery Sgt. David A. Jarvis, the chief instructor of the Urban Sniper Course.
Jarvis said the weapons snipers use on the battlefield are determined by the nature of the mission. For example, they use M-40 A3 sniper rifles to engage enemy personnel and the SASR to effectively destroy vehicles and equipment.
The snipers also trained with several scopes including the PVS- 10 Night Vision Sniper Scope, which allows snipers to effectively engage targets during both day and night.
“Nine times out of 10, they conduct these raids at night,” Jarvis said. “That’s why it’s important they know how to use the (PVS-10).”
Throughout the course, shooters participated in several exercises meant to improve their effectiveness in shooting from numerous positions.
One shooting exercise allowed the snipers to use some creative thinking in establishing their shooting positions. They used everything from rope, tables, boxes and even other scouts to help them effectively stabilize their weapons to deliver a more lethal shot.
In scenarios that mirrored typical vessel raid operations, the snipers also trained to shoot at moving targets, such as simulated enemy personnel and vessels, from the inside of helicopters.
“I had no idea how accurately I could shoot from the helicopter,” said Cpl. Michael J. Donato, who shot what he called a “nice, tight group” on his target.
The course also provided the snipers a chance to shoot at and through materials commonly found in urban environments, such as glass and concrete, to gain a better understanding of how those obstacles can affect the trajectory of a round.
In the final week of the course, the Marines took part in a series of qualifications, including day and night shoots, and scenarios that tied everything from the course together.
Jarvis noted that the qualification portion of the course is the hardest part.
“These guys have to hit precisely where they’re aiming every time,” Jarvis said. “Lowering the standard anymore than that is unacceptable for a sniper.”