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    ‘Dragon’ Battalion Soldiers aim to develop scout sniper capability in Iraqi Army

    ‘Dragon’ Battalion Soldiers aim to develop scout sniper capability in Iraqi Army

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | Sgt. Matthew Meckley, left, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st...... read more read more

    BAGHDAD—Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st “Dragon” Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center taught a two-week beginner scout-sniper course to soldiers with the 17th Iraqi Army Division commando battalion at Joint Security Station Deason and Qa’qaa range—formerly Qa’qaa weapons facility—near Baghdad.

    The intent behind the course was to establish a corps of scouts and snipers within the Iraqi army, some of whom will be relied upon as instructors when U.S. forces leave under the Status of Forces Agreement in place between the two governments, said Maj. Henry Malinverni, with the Stability Transition Team attached to the Dragon Battalion and a Fort Dix, N.J., native.

    Traditionally in the Iraqi armed forces, “snipers” have been whichever soldier in a particular unit was assigned a sniper rifle, Malinverni said, rather than soldiers with special training and skills capable of providing a valuable battlefield capability.

    “We have identified a capability gap within the 17th IA Div. in terms of precision fire,” he said. “Doctrinally, we have had to get past differences in terminology – historically for the Iraqis, a sniper is defined as anyone who had a particular piece of weaponry, not necessarily a skill set. So what we did is we outlined, since we had this capability gap and a capability requirement, how we should help them fill that.”

    Of course, the skill most associated with snipers is the ability to accurately hit specific targets at great distances, and the Dragon Battalion soldiers had to work almost from scratch with their students, who were using unfamiliar weapons systems with telescopic sights attached.

    The trainers and their students gradually moved back the range at which the students were consistently able to hit their targets, said Sgt. Matthew Meckley, a scout with HHC, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. and a Washington state native.

    In addition to increasing the range, the instructors made their students differentiate between targets, by marking them with particular colors, shapes, or numbers.

    “The intent we wanted to get across to them—starting in the classroom, to eventually showing them they could do it—was the selective target engagement followed by precision fire,” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Capps, a section leader in scout platoon, HHC, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. and an Oregon native. “To convey the differences between targets, and then to precisely hit what they are aiming at, is a relatively new concept for many of [the IA soldiers].”

    Scout-snipers can be the eyes and ears of a unit, and must be able to conceal themselves and covertly observe enemy activity, along with hitting specified targets at great distances. Part of the training at the Qa’qaa range focused on building effective hides—concealed positions from which to observe—and, if necessary, engaging the enemy.

    The soldiers instructing the course maintained that the actual shooting is the easier of the two skills.

    “[Building a hide and shooting] are two ends of the spectrum,” Meckley said. “Ask any soldier that has been to the sniper school or served as a sniper, they will tell you that the shooting is the easy part—everything else is ten times more complex.”

    The Dragon Battalion snipers hope to have their most promising students from the course attend the advanced sniper course, where they will augment the skills they learned in the beginner’s course, and eventually be certified as instructors for future generations of Iraqi army scouts and snipers.

    “Right now we’re slated to have two basic courses,” said Malinverni. “From the basic courses, we expect to have some soldiers that show promise for advanced schooling. They’ll move on beyond the defensive nature of the basic course into more advanced training, more offensive-oriented operations … to put that on the table for the IA commanders.”

    The instructors have had to overcome a variety of cultural and institutional differences between themselves and the IA Soldiers they are training.

    “It’s still amazing, the things they instantly grasp and do even better than you think [they will] and then other things you anticipate them to understand immediately, are the things they lack on,” Capps said. “We’ve actually all been impressed with some of the things they grasp instantly and run with, and of course there can be natural frustration when things that you would imagine would be simple, they struggle with.”

    Despite all that, Capps said the students are eager to learn, and have shown that they care about succeeding and doing their best.

    “Another nice thing to see, is when they are struggling, they are upset about it,” he said. “To see them be frustrated with it until they get it and then once they finally get it, they get that confidence.”

    The training the 17th IA Div. is receiving from the Dragon Battalion will give them a capability they have been lacking, giving their commanders more options when confronted by an enemy force. Having competent, confident eyes and ears, with the ability to engage specific targets at distance, means the IA will be better able to provide for the safety and security of the Iraqi people.



    Date Taken: 04.13.2011
    Date Posted: 04.23.2011 10:35
    Story ID: 69241
    Location: BAGHDAD, IQ 

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