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31st MEU snipers sharpen skills

US Marine Corps News

4/20/2012 By Lance Cpl. Matthew Manning, Marine Corps Bases Japan

CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan — "Targets are up! Targets are moving!” Upon the commands, a volley of rifle fire is unleashed. One by one, the targets go down from the rapid and accurate fire of force reconnaissance snipers with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

For these snipers with the 31st MEU, III Marine Expeditionary Force, it is just another day in the office as they take part in the three-week maritime raid force urban sniper course offered by the Special Operations Training Group, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF, at the ranges on Camps Hansen and Schwab April 9-27.

“The focus of the course is the build up of what we learned at the basic snipers course,” said Sgt. Joseph M. Sousa, a reconnaissance sniper with the 31st MEU. “At the basic course, we are taught the traditional skills of a sniper.”

At the course, they learn marksmanship, concealment and field skills, which are the essentials needed to be a sniper, said Gunnery Sgt. Owen E. Mulder, the lead reconnaissance surveillance and urban sniper instructor with SOTG.

“During this course, we teach (them) how to employ sniper support during raids in the support of MEU operations,” Mulder said.

“The overall goal of the course is to remind them of issues they will run into when sniping in an urban environment,” said Sgt. Ronald J. Lewis, a marksmanship instructor with SOTG. “The major difficulty is making accurate wind calls. It is the number one reason why a sniper would miss the target.”

Wind is often a predominate factor that can cause a bullet to miss its mark, according to Mulder.

“Trying to estimate the effects of an invisible, constantly changing force is not an easy skill to master,” Mulder said.

To ensure the snipers are able to hit their target, the instructors conduct observation drills with the snipers.

“We are focusing on building up their observation ability, so they can look at subtle things in the environment,” said Lewis. “Puffs of dirt from someone walking or the way someone’s shirt is blowing in the wind can assist in making an accurate wind call.”

In an urban environment, wind is not the only challenge a sniper will face.

“In an urban environment, the distance from the sniper to his target is much closer than in other environments,” said Mulder. “The target also has more cover to hide behind, which means the sniper will almost never be able to see the full profile of his target.”

While the urban environment holds many challenges for the sniper, the skills taught in this course will ultimately help save Marines’ lives, according to Sousa.

“Once a sniper opens fire, the enemy becomes paralyzed with fear,” said Sousa. “They will not pay attention to any Marines coming through the door. This is what sniper support brings to a unit.”


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