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June 24, 2011


Sniper rifle receives new emphasis for deployment

Story & photo by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems & Services

The need for Soldiers traveling in a convoy to have squad designated marksmen (SDM) patrolling alongside has become evident in the current theaters of operation.
PHOTO: A spent shell casing flies out of the chamber of the M110 sniper rifle as a Soldier fires the weapon. Photo by Tom Michele
A spent shell casing flies out of the chamber of the M110 sniper rifle as a member of the 926th Engineer Company, a Louisiana Army National Guard unit, fires the weapon at a Fort McCoy range. The unit trained at Fort McCoy to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

As a result, a battalion of combat engineers that trained at Fort McCoy in the past two months received classroom and live-fire range training on the new M110 semi-automatic sniper system.

Those Army National Guard Soldiers, from the 111th Engineer Battalion, and the 190th, 926th and 1014th Engineer Companies, deployed in June in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The training, provided by instructors with RTC-Central, consisted of mechanical training on the weapon system, optic training, range- estimation and target-engagement training. This was followed by range time and a qualification to build on the SDM skills learned in the classroom.

The M110 has a powerful optical scope and uses the M118LR 7.62mm round. The Army first fielded the weapon in 2008.

“The M110 allows the Soldier to reach out to long distances and use the rifle in what is called an ‘over-watch position,’” said an instructor at Regional Training Center (RTC)-Central.

RTC-Central was assisting the 181st Infantry Brigade with the M110 training.

The 181st conducts the mobilization training at Fort McCoy.

“When part of a convoy, particularly a route-clearance convoy, that over-watch Soldier can better observe the landscape and detect threat situations much earlier and faster than with a M4/M16 or the M249 or 240,” the instructor said.

Operations in Afghanistan frequently require U.S. ground forces to engage and destroy the enemy at ranges beyond 300 meters.

While Soldiers are ready for combat conditions in Afghanistan, current weapons and marksmanship training do not provide a precise, lethal-fire capability to 500 meters and beyond. Comments from returning Soldiers reveal that about 50 percent of engagements occur past 300 meters.

The M110 live-fire training at Fort McCoy zeroed in on targets at up to 1,000 meters, and effectively hitting targets the size of a person.

“Having a Soldier with an M110 along on a convoy gives the route-clearance team a lot of confidence knowing they have a designated marksman covering them,” the RTC-Central instructor said.

A Soldier from 926th Engineer Company, said, “The M110 will be a great weapon when we get it while we are deployed. It is the first time I have touched it, and also for my buddies. We learned a lot in the classes and live-fire. We got the feel of the basics, ranges and zeroing. We are ready with it. It will help save the lives of our Soldiers on the battlefield.”

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