Marksmanship Unit Teaches Advanced Skills in Baghdad
By Spc. Andrew Meissner, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 4, 2004 At a firing range on the grounds of Baghdad International Airport, the sharp crack of gunfire echoes out through the palm trees.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Hampton, an instructor and shooter with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit service pistol team, helps out a student with his shot placement at the unit's range at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq. Photo by Spc. Andrew Meissner, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The weapons being used vary greatly, from M-9 pistols to M-4 carbines to M-249 squad automatic weapons. Soldiers of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit from Fort Benning, Ga., are sharpening fellow soldiers' shooting skills.
The way they see it, instructors from the unit are in Iraq to teach and demonstrate the potential every soldier has as a rifleman.
"This is advanced, close-quarters marksmanship," said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Gibbs, noncommissioned officer in charge of the unit's service pistol team. "We don't teach tactics; we teach marksmanship technique."
Instruction is set up as a "train the trainer" exercise. The instructors train soldiers who then take new practices back to their units and teach them to others at smaller ranges.
"What we're doing here is strictly offense," explained Staff Sgt. Aaron Hampton, service pistol instructor and shooter. "(We teach) how to move, shoot effectively and keep moving."
Shooting while moving, either on foot or in a vehicle, is stressed in this training. Hampton explained that unlike marksmanship qualification ranges where there is one firing point, this training introduces the concept that both the target and the shooter may be moving.
"It's total training -- shooting, accuracy, movement left and right, up and down -- things that you might encounter while out on the streets," said Hampton.
For many of the students, this is the most time they've spent shooting on a single day.
"This is very fast-paced; it keeps soldiers interested," said Staff Sgt. Gary Harris, a military policeman with the 1st Platoon, 501st Military Police Company. "You shoot a lot of rounds, and that's always good when you get to shoot."
Harris said he was having fun, but also knew that he was learning an invaluable combat skill. "You never know when a threat is going to pop up two meters from you and you're going to have to engage. It's very effective training," Harris explained.
Although the marksmanship instruction highlights stealth and quickness, the students have to be precise. "In this type of environment, it's really good to be able to shoot fast and accurately," Harris said. "But it doesn't do any good if you shoot 10 rounds in two seconds if you're not hitting anything."
(Army Spc. Andrew Meissner is assigned to the 1st Armored Division Public Affairs Office.)
U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit