News: Marines train first group of ANA sharpshooters
Story by Sgt. Jacob Harrer
FORWARD OPERATING BASE EDINBURGH, Afghanistan – It was January 2012 when insurgents opened up with machine gun fire at an Afghan National Army compound in Musa Qala District. Bullets landed within feet of the headquarters of Command Outpost Griffin, where four Marine advisers observed as the enemy closed within 50 meters (164 ft.) of the compound before ANA soldiers repelled the assault.
The attack on Griffin demonstrated the importance of precision fire in the ANA, said Gunnery Sgt. Rafael Iturrino, the Embedded Training Team staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
“Due to the lack of training, they weren't able to shoot long distances,” added Iturrino, a 34-year-old native of Brooklyn, New York. “Future training will make them able to engage and be effective on the battlefield.”
According to Iturrino, it was critically important to instruct and equip precision shooters in the ANA to complement the effects of their light machine guns, which could pin down but not neutralize targets at longer ranges.
Iturrino said ANA commanders in 3rd Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps selected top shooters to attend the weeklong precision marksmanship course. Graduates of the course would serve as designated marksmen within their units, equipped with M24 sniper rifles and able to deliver accurate, long-range fire.
The instructors taught the ANA soldiers about the M24 rifle, maintenance, and the basics of a good shooting position. They quizzed the students about the previous days' instruction, and the Afghans answered with loud voices and kept their eyes focused on the instructors. The soldiers took notes, raised hands, and asked questions.
After two sessions of classroom instruction, the soldiers practiced various shooting positions, including shooting from behind cover and barriers. The next day, the students 'zeroed their rifles,' or adjusted their telescopic sights to be in line with their rifles. Afghan National Army sergeants looked over their fellow students and helped them with their positioning.
One of the best shooters was a 19-year-old private who graduated recruit training about a month ago, said Iturrino. The Afghan soldiers and Marines applauded after Pvt. Rostam Khan, a rifleman with 1st Tolai, 3rd Kandak, fired three shots within an inch of the bullseye from about 100 meters (325 ft.).
“I feel good I'm here,” said Khan. “My post is out on the front lines. I feel confident I can fight with the enemy.”
Khan is one of several students being considered to become a marksmanship instructor for the ANA, giving the Afghans the ability to train more designated marksmen and spread their knowledge throughout their units, said Iturrino.
“I think the course is something that's going to be very successful in the future,” added Iturrino. “I think with the knowledge that they're going to gain they'll be able to go back into their Tolais and be able to teach the ANA soldiers to be better marksmen. I think this is a wonderful opportunity.”
Editor's Note: The 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which is a part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.