Marines Mentor Afghan Marksmen
By Marine Corps Sgt. Brian Tuthill
Special to American Forces Press Service
NAWA, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2009 Sayed Alim stood on the firing line, a Marine by his side and M-16 service rifle in his hand. When the whistle blasted, the Afghan National Army soldier quickly spun to his left and delivered two rounds without hesitation, nearly center into a 12-inch circle drawn on a silhouette target.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. John B. Kavanaugh explains to an Afghan soldier how his firing stance can affect his balance and accuracy near Forward Operating Base Geronimo in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Dec. 14, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian Tuthill
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
He smiled broadly at his fellow soldiers, but his focus quickly returned, as his Marine instructor used hand gestures to explain how Alim needed to modify his stance to make best use of his momentum with his rifle.
Alim was one of more than a dozen Afghan soldiers who joined a squad of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, near Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Dec. 14, to improve their combat marksmanship with one-on-one mentoring.
The Afghan soldiers practiced shooting techniques and drills such as timed target engagements, firing rounds in controlled and speed pairs, and failure-to-stop drills. They also practiced engaging three different targets while walking.
Marines observed their firing stances and weapons handling, and coached shooting accuracy using basic Pashto commands and phrases learned from their interpreters.
"The biggest challenge was the language barrier," said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason M. Cooper. "We learned basic numbers and commands, which definitely helped, but we were still limited without an interpreter next to us, and pantomiming only goes so far.
"Some of these guys really needed assistance out here, and they did get better," said Cooper, 20, from Auburn, N.Y. "We wanted them to get the fundamentals of combat marksmanship down the best we could. There were a few who shot really well, too."
One of the top shooters was Alim, a 25-year-old Afghan soldier from Sar-i-Pol province, who said the training was beneficial for him and his unit.
"I learned tactics to help me shoot the enemy," said Alim. "I feel more comfortable shooting now. Working with the Marines is good, and helps us for the security of the Afghan people."
Although the session lasted only a few hours, Marines said the training is valuable and that they will continue training Afghan army units to improve their combat effectiveness.
"If we keep working with them, they can definitely be a force to be reckoned with," Cooper said. "It just takes time, practice and patience."
(Marine Corps Sgt. Brian Tuthill serves with Regimental Combat Team 7.)