News: Spartan Soldiers qualify on Polish range
Story by Sgt. Javier Amador
PAKTIA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Spartan Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) had a unique opportunity to earn a Polish army marksmanship badge at a small-arms range held May 1, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Thunder, Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Nigel Taylor, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Security Force Advise Assist Team 1 with the help of Polish Land Force, or “Wojska Lądowe,” worked together in setting up the range. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Piotr Sieminski. Taylor, of Baltimore, took a rare break from his normal role advising the Afghan National Security Forces and decided to give the Spartan Soldiers a rare opportunity.
“I wanted to do something for the Soldiers who are on my team -- our guardian angels,” said Taylor. “We are able to advise effectively because they protect us. So I wanted them to experience something different and to give them a chance to earn something many Soldiers don’t have.”.
He knew of a Polish Land Forces officer who was also advising the ANSF. Knowing the Polish army also have a weapon’s qualification program, he decided to see if he could get his Soldiers a chance to earn a Wojska Lądowe marksmanship badge. He spoke with his supervisor, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert Owen, the commander of SFAAT 1, who in turn spoke with Sieminski. Taylor finalized the plan and coordinated the range through U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Todd Crawford, the operations sergeant major for the Spartan Brigade, who made a change to allow all Spartan Soldiers to participate.
The Wojska Lądowe target consists of a human-like silhouette on paper, approximately 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide. A size that seems generous until viewed from the firing line, which is 100 meters away, nearly the length of a football field. Soldiers were given the opportunity to fire several rounds for familiarization after which they attempt their qualification.
“You start by shooting three rounds using either a Polish weapon or your weapon. You then walk up with the range safety to the silhouette target to see where they hit to see where you need to adjust your shots. You next have 10 minutes to shoot 10 rounds at the silhouette target,” said Taylor.
The score is calculated by adding up the numbers on the printed concentric rings where the bullets punctured the target. Starting with 10 points for a bull’s eye, each ring going outward goes down by one point. The outermost ring is worth six points.
Spartan Soldiers threw in one more challenge. They had to score 85 points due to the sighting optics mounted on most of their weapons which were counted as an advantage. They were given the option to turn them off and use their mechanical sights if they wanted to try for the normal qualifying score of 75.
“Even with the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, which you could normally see where you’re hitting on our 25-meter, alternate C paper target range, at the distance we were shooting, you could barely see where you’re hitting,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Andrew Miller, a cavalry scout with Bandit Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd BCT. Miller, of New Paris, Ind., qualified using his weapon’s optic sight with a score of 91.
U.S. Army Pvt. Zacharie LaFluer, of Palmdale, Ca., also a cavalry scout with Bandit Troop had to apply everything he was taught about marksmanship but despite his training, it didn’t make qualifying any easier.
“It tests all of your fundamentals ... breathing, sight picture and all of that, but you had to keep hitting that same target,” said LaFluer, who also qualified with a score of 96.
As difficult as it may have been for everyone to qualify, everyone left the range with a bit more than just a badge and bragging rights that come with it.
“I would rate this range as seven and a half out of 10 as far as difficulty because of the distance, but I definitely had fun,” said Spc. Andrew Mckenney, a Spartan infantryman with Bandit Troop from St. Petersburg, Fla.