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Sniper Alley: Marines Participate in Urban Sniper Course

Marines participating in the Expeditionary Operations Training Group Urban Sniper Course take part in the sniper qualification aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Marines participating in the Expeditionary Operations Training Group Urban Sniper Course take part in the sniper qualification aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Immanuel M. Johnson)

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina -- Shots rang out through the combat town as the Marines continued to put rounds through their targets. Impact after impact, the bullets tore through the metal targets and disappeared into the vast expanse of the Dodge City range.

Scout snipers with second and fourth Reconnaissance Battalions along with Marines from 2nd Marine Division and II Marine Expeditionary Force participated in the Urban Sniper Course, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Dec. 1-19. 

The 16-day course conducted by Expeditionary Operations Training Group provided the Marines individual and team-level training on advanced precision marksmanship, aerial sniper skills, and maritime sniper skills in order to support the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit maritime raid force and battalion landing team during urban, rural, and visit board search and seizure operations. 

The course consisted of performance-oriented instruction in advanced combat marksmanship at known and unknown distances during daylight, low-light, and darkness. The students trained with the M40A5 Sniper Rifle, M110 Semi-automatic Sniper Rifle System, M107 Special Application Scoped Rifle, M27 Individual Assault Rifle, and the M9 service pistol. 

Non-sniper weapons systems are used throughout the course to enhance capability for students so they may utilize a multitude of weapon systems at any given time depending on the occasion. 

The first part of the course required the Marines to hone their basic shooting skills before continuing on to more advanced techniques including target engagement in a built-up area, alternative position shooting, and advanced optics training. 

"It's about good body positions and executing the fundamentals of marksmanship," said Sgt. Benjamin Morrow, a reconnaissance Marine with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion. "We want to get out of the basics of shooting in the prone, because we're not always going to be in a position where we could take that prone shot."

The second part of the course gave special attention to maritime marksmanship. The Marines had to complete a course of fire from various maritime platforms including firing at night with the use of night optics while performing different techniques including ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship firing. 

"Maritime shooting is vital to the success of a sniper because it tests the stability of a shot, the boat is always moving," said Sgt. Robert Bagley, a scout sniper with 4th Reconnaissance Battalion. "Being able to maintain a stable shooting position while firing is crucial to the completion of the mission."

After completing the maritime marksmanship portion the Marines transitioned into the aerial firing portion of the course, which requires the Marines to accurately acquire and shoot moving and stationary targets during both the day and night.

According to Bagley, though each part of the course has its own difficulties, maintaining the correct state of mind, trusting the Marines around you, and having the willpower to block the stress of urban combat is crucial to the success in the course and on the battlefield.

"Coming together as a team, knowing your brothers next to you are going to make that shot count every time is what we do best as snipers; assisting, conducting, and killing," said Bagley. 

Starting the course fundamentals for the first time can be a challenge for Marines inexperienced with urban combat, but the Marine Corps provides courses such as the urban sniper course to maintain combat readiness at all times, Morrow said.

"I want to learn how to operate as an urban sniper as well as a team so I can take this training back and apply it to my reconnaissance team," said Morrow. "So we can effectively collect and report, as well as engage targets in an urban environment from a set distance and position."

Tasked with operating both in groups and individually, the students who graduate become qualified as urban snipers and are able to take the training back to their units and share what they learned with their fellow Marines.

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