News: America’s Battalion takes Texas: Raining fire from the sky
Story by Cpl. Austin Long
FORT BLISS, Texas - This was the first time for five Marines from the platoon to engage targets from a Black Hawk. The training allowed scouts snipers to work on their skill sets used to support Visit and Board or search and seizure missions while deployed on Marine Expeditionary Units. Usually a sniper team will support Marines from 200 meters or closer, but the training area on Fort Bliss was already pre-set and the Marines had to follow guidelines already established, said Staff Sgt. Rollie Pennington, the scout sniper platoon sergeant.
“We hit the target four times during six runs,” said Pennington, a Louisville, Ky. native. “I would say it’s not bad; considering they [the scouts] fired the weapon system for the first time the day before. I was happy with the results.”
Scouts are Marines who have passed a week long indoctrination process to train with the Scout Sniper Platoon before going to the school for formal training. It’s the equivalent of trying out for the school’s basketball team, only a lot more difficult, said Pennington.
The scout sniper platoon was formed two months prior to coming to Fort Bliss for the Network Integration Exercise. Standing at seven Marines; the platoon has four scouts, two school trained snipers, and one intelligence officer.
“Training out here is great,” said Kennesaw, Ga. native, Cpl. Mark Slocum, a scout with the platoon. “Shooting from the helicopter is something that I haven’t done before. It was really great and I really enjoyed it.”
While supporting Task Force 28 for the upcoming exercise, the snipers will use the time in Texas to prepare their students for The Basic Sniper School.
During the exercise and training, scouts are shooting and getting familiar with the M40A5 bolt-action sniper rifle, M110 SASS, and the Berretta M107 .50 caliber sniper rifle. Scouts also work on calling in fire missions to work on their Joint Fire Observer skills.
“To hit targets at a distance you’re not used to with a weapon you’ve never shot before is pretty impressive,” said Pennington. “It’s not as simple as get behind the weapon and pull the trigger. There’s a lot of mathematics done prior to shooting and classes taught before coming to the range. These guys are on the range day and night, firing weapons they’ve never shot before. We’re throwing a lot at our guys pretty quickly, but they seem to be receiving it well and are able to comprehend it. I’m proud of how they’re handling the training.”