Story & photos by Cpl. Johnny Merkley - FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers with 1st Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps participated in a designated marksman course here, Jan. 21-25.
U.S. Marine Corps scout snipers with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, conducted the course to share their marksmanship expertise with their ANA counterparts.
“The purpose of the training was to familiarize the ANA with the weapons systems they had in their inventory,” said Master Sgt. Joe Caspole, the 2/6 assistant operations chief and lead instructor for the designated marksman course. “Overall we trained the soldiers in the basic fundamentals and the application of the M-24 weapon system so they can use it in the future when they have a need for designated marksman.
The weapons systems used by the ANA marksmen are U.S. Army M-24 sniper rifles with tactical Leupold scope attachments. The Afghan designated marksmen use this Army sniper rifle in place of the custom M40A5 sniper rifle used by Marine scout snipers.
The 1st Kandak leadership requested a select number of their soldiers receive training on the M-24 sniper rifles after seeing the marksmanship expertise of Marine scout snipers with 2/6.
“After the request came down I developed a five day course to give them the basic fundamentals,” said Caspole, a native of Columbus, Ohio. “Other than this class of ANA students, I haven’t heard of this kind of training being offered to any other ANA units.”
During the course, the ANA students learned skills such as land navigation, basic marksmanship techniques, familiarization and utilization of the Leupold scope and many other aspects key to designated marksman training.
With the training these ANA students received during the course, they can utilize and pass the knowledge on to other soldiers within their unit. Although 2/6 will be unable to offer the designated marksman training in the near future, the battalion’s leadership strongly encouraged the soldiers who completed the course to maintain their newly acquired skills and techniques.
“We’ve advised them to go back to their units and continue to maintain the skills they’ve learned during the course,” said Caspole. “This training can be very useful to them if they continue to practice and become more proficient.”
While the five-day training course may seem brief when compared to the three week school of Marine Corps designated marksmen, the ANA students were still appreciative of the training opportunity and are anxious to utilize their new skill sets.
“I am very thankful for this opportunity to train alongside the U.S. Marines,” said Mir. “I am extremely confident in my abilities and I believe I can be very useful to my unit with the new skills they have taught me.”
Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghanistan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.