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Soldiers evaluate weapons, optics for program
Marksmen test fundamentals of firing


Story and photo by Spc. Natalie Loucks/3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

FORT BENNING, Ga. (TRADOC News Service, Nov. 5, 2004) – Soldiers fighting the Global War on Terrorism have stressed the need for a squad designated marksman – a rifleman whose marksmanship skill is higher than the average squad member.

To meet this need, Fort Benning’s Soldier Battle Lab and Directorate of Combat Development teamed with Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, Oct. 18-29 to evaluate various weapons and ammunitions in support of the Squad Designated Marksman Program as outlined in Field Manual 3-22.9, “Rifle Marksmanship.”

The four evaluation weapons were the M-16 A4 rifle, the M-4 carbine, the M-14 rifle and an M-16 A4 rifle modified by the Army Marksmanship Unit. All weapons were mounted with the advanced combat optic gunsight for magnified and accurate target engagement, said Dutch Waldheim, project officer for Soldier Battle Lab’s Lethality Branch.

At Griswold Range, 25 Soldiers fired each weapon at targets ranging from 100 to 600 meters. The hits and misses were recorded and sent for analysis of the percentage of hits for each weapon.

The Squad Designated Marksman Program has five phases to assess Soldiers’ ability to apply the fundamentals of marksmanship. Phase I evaluates the Soldiers’ firing position. Soldiers must be able to demonstrate the proper position and be able to consistently execute and maintain each position, as indicated by FM 3-22.9.

Phase II consists of dry-fire exercises to demonstrate the Soldiers’ fundamentals of marksmanship, including aiming, proper breathing techniques, correct trigger squeeze and relaxation.

In Phase III, Soldiers must demonstrate range-estimation methods to determine the distance between their position and the target. Three factors that affect the range estimation of target distance are the nature of the target, the nature of the terrain and light conditions.

Phase IV consists of shifting the point of aim to achieve the desired point of impact. This technique is used at varied distances ranging from 100 to 500 meters when the squad designated marksman does not have time to change his sight setting.

The final phase of the program is a live-fire exercise where Soldiers must demonstrate, by using all the fundamentals and techniques he has learned through the program, that he can hit at least 14 of 20 targets each at 100 to 600 meters.

Once the firer has completed the Squad Designated Marksmanship Program, he is identified as a squad designated marksman.

“If the squad leader spots an enemy up in a window 400 or 600 meters away, he can rely on the squad designated marksman to get him with one shot,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Jones with DCD.

Pfc. Gene Kemper, B Company, 1st Bn., 30 Inf. Regt., shot 20 out of 20 targets using the M-4 rifle the first time on the firing line Oct. 27.

“When I got up on the line, I concentrated on breathing and I focused on the targets,” he said. “I tried to clear my mind of everything else.”

Waldheim said the Soldiers chosen are gaining more firing time and will be able to bring back to their companies the fundamentals and techniques they learned while out on the range.

Pfc. Gene Kemper, B Company, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, fires the M-4 carbine at Griswold Range Oct. 27.


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