Sniper Training Provides 'combat Multiplier' for Iraqi Army

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(Editor's note: As the course instructor being interviewed is currently functioning as an Army sniper, we are referring to him as simply "Bob," in the interest of his safety and security).

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, Iraq – While "one shot, one kill," may be the sniper axiom, it doesn't begin to describe the sniper experience.

Not only must snipers be excellent shooters, they must also be disciplined and patient. They must have subtle field skills, including concealment and camouflage, in order to infiltrate, detect and stalk a target through all types of terrain and distances, before firing their shot.

It was exactly those concepts that 1st Brigade, 36th Infantry snipers taught 22 Iraqi special forces soldiers during a recent sniper course held at the Iraqi army base in Al Kindi, Iraq. The Iraqis learned basic sniper techniques, allowed to stalk and detect targets, and then spent days firing at the range.

"A sniper is a combat multiplier for a battalion," said "Bob," the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Division sniper section leader and sniper course instructor, who also serves as an active sniper.

"Their first mission is to provide long-range precision fire, anywhere from 600 yards to over 1,000 yards. Our second mission is to observe and report what we see on the battlefield to the commander. If the target presents itself, we then engage and get rid of it," he said.

He has served as the unit's Sniper section leader for the past two years, since joining the unit at Fort Bliss, Texas.

"The reward comes from the interaction with my teams and being able to mold them into great snipers. Just seeing them engage targets at those distances, where most Soldiers only hit targets at 300 yards, is awesome. We not only consistently hit at 300 yards, but we triple that distance," he said.

As a Stability Transition Team advisor to the 7th IA Brigade, 2nd IA Division, its Haber's job to train, advise and assist his Iraqi counterparts. The Iraqis identified sniper training as a battlefield weakness, he said, which they wanted to correct.

Just watching the Jundi's, or lower enlisted Soldiers, interact with the U.S. Soldiers on a day-to-day basis has been impressive, he said.

"The Iraqis are doing very well. They had a lower baseline than most U.S. Soldiers, so there were some things we had to do to get them up to a functional level, before we could teach some of the higher-end, specialty characteristics of being a sniper," Haber said."

According to Fierner, Headquarters and Headquarters commander, 1st Brigade, 36th Infantry, his Soldiers provided a definitive, hands-on education based upon their practical knowledge and experience.

"Our snipers trained the Iraqis in all the proper basics of sniper training, so we can eventually take them out on mission and they can start covering their own sectors. We're training them on all the fundamentals – from stalking, shooting, target detection, gathering dope on their weapons and firing at longer ranges than they normally would," he said.

"I think it's great for our Soldiers to actually interact with the Iraqi soldiers," said Fierner. "I also think it's great for the Iraqi soldiers to see that our enlisted Soldiers can train them, that they have the proper skills and can broaden their spectrum.

"At first, it was somewhat of a culture shock for the Iraqis, going from their everyday army life to living the life of a sniper," the sniper leader said. "They're finally starting to understand that, as sniper, you won't always have ideal conditions, or even ones you'll like. You have to make do with what you have," he said.

Once the classroom portion ended, Iraqi soldiers began building their own ghillie suits, from burlap bags and camouflage material. The ghillie is a camouflaged suit used to break up an individual's outline as they're stalking. The term came from Scottish gamekeepers, known as "ghillies," who developed a suit which allowed them to blend into the scenery in search of poachers.

Using two-man teams of a shooter and a spotter, the Iraqis then got the opportunity to stalk targets amongst the lush vegetation of the Al Kindi Iraqi army base.

"We started out with a preparation phase of about 500 meters," said "Bob" "A sniper can stalk anywhere from 200 to 3,000 meters before settling into their final firing position. From there, they engaged their presented target."

The course concluded with the Iraqis shooting at the firing range at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul. Beginning at 50 meters, they fired a variety of U.S. weapons, as well as their own Army-issued MK76 Yugoslavian sniper rifles, ultimately reaching the 400 meter limit of the range.

"The Jundis out here today are definitely building confidence and acquiring new skills in shooting," said Fierner. "They've definitely grown and we've built up their confidence. We'll continue to push them and improve their skills.


"U.S. Forces have learned a tremendous amount of skills working with the Iraqis, such as how they learn and how they function as a unit. We're building friendships and we're building partnerships. That's something that was unexpected, but it's definitely a gain for us," he added.

"They're obviously better off now then they were at the beginning," said "Bob." "We gave them a good baseline. However, being a sniper, you have to keep up on your sniper skills. It's very important, due to it being a perishable skill. If you don't practice, it'll fade away.

"This has been a very good partnership," said Haber. "This is the advent of a sniper program for this division. I think in the future, there will only be good things that will come out of this, benefiting both the brigade and the division. Most importantly, however, are the effects we want to have on the battlefield in the future."

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Using tall grass for cover, a Soldier from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-36 Infantry Division attatched to the 3rd Infantry Division, sets up his shot using the "Buddy-Supported" firing postion, taking aim with his M110 Sniper Rifle. The snipers trained Iraqi army special forces soldiers as part of a two-week sniper training in Mosul, Iraq.

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After crawling through grass and brush toward their target, a sniper team from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-36 Infantry Division, attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, set their sights on their target during a two-week training school where U.S. Soldiers trained Iraqi army special forces at the Al Kindi Iraqi army base in Mosul, Iraq.

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Iraqi army special forces soldiers crawl through low-lying vegitation to avoid being detected before they reach their target during a two-week training exercise taught by U.S. Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-36 Infantry Division, currently attatched to the 3rd Infantry Division, at the Al Kindi Iraqi Army Base in nothern Mosul, Iraq.

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Stelthily stepping across a small stream, an Iraqi army special forces operater wearing a gilly suite stalks his target during a sniper training course taught by Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-36 Infantry Division?s Sniper Team, near a Forward Observation Base in Norhern Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 15.

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Stalking to their objective while using the high grass for cover, two Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-36 Infantry Division's Sniper Team currently attatched to the 3rd Infatnry Division, persue a closer observational vantage point to sight their target during a training exercise at a Forward Observation Base in Nothern Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 15.
 
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