Hunters of gunmen: Recon Marines on Okinawa target Urban Sniper Course

5/14/2008 By Lance Cpl. Tyler J. Hlavac , Marine Corps Base Camp Butler

CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan — Eight scout snipers and spotters with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division reinforced their position as the Marine Corps’ ‘hunters of gunmen’ during an Urban Sniper Course here May 11.

The course, run by III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Special Operations Training Group, supplemented the snipers’ basic skills training. The Marines practiced unconventional sniping skills, such as shooting from helicopters, disabling vehicles using the .50 caliber SASR-M107 sniper rifle and firing at targets through glass windows.

The Marines also practiced “peephole shooting” through large pieces of cardboard with smalls holes cut in them.

Staff Sgt. Owen Mulder, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the course, said the biggest challenge for Marines in the course was to break out of the traditional ways they have been taught to shoot.

“Marine snipers often focus more on basic sniper skills, such as always firing from the prone position from 1,000 meters and shooting slow, precise shots at a target’s center mass,” he said. “During this course, we focus more on combat shooting.

All shots the Marines make in the urban course are head shots from various firing positions. Every target they shoot at is 400 ‘Hunters of gunmen’ Recon Marines target Urban Sniper Course meters or closer, and students are graded, not only on accuracy, but speed as they often have five seconds or less to get off a shot.”

“The hardest part of the course for me was simply shooting in positions other than the prone,” said Cpl. Bryan Martinez, a sniper with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. “When I received my basic sniper training, I was taught to shoot from the prone. In combat, however that isn’t always practical. You’ll always be moving around, going to different positions looking for a good shot.”

The course, which SOTG conducts twice a year, is a requirement for snipers slated to attach to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, where they could be called on to participate in raids.
“This class has taught me new ways of shooting that I’ll need for the MEU,” Martinez said. “I consider this a necessity for combat environments, and I’ve really broken off some of the rust since sniper school.”