MARINE CORPS MOUNTAIN WARFARE TRAINING CENTER BRIDGEPORT, Calif. --
Traversing through the freezing Sierra Nevada Mountains with hundreds of pounds of gear, scout snipers of class 1-11 in the Mountain Scout Sniper Course, completed their training Jan. 25, 2011, at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif.
The three-week-long course focused on high angle shooting, mountain movement, survival techniques and how to combine them in a combat situation, said Gunnery Sgt. David Williams, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the course.
“The goal of this class is to teach Marine snipers to move efficiently over snowy terrain while they engage the enemy,” said Williams.
Because of the sensitivity of their missions, the snipers’ names and units could not be publicized. The first phase of the course challenged the individual snipers’ shooting. In Marine Corps Scout Sniper training, the max range that marksmanship is tested is at 1,000 meters. Here, the snipers are pushed further, beyond the max range of their weapons to 1,100 meters, Williams said.
“The shooting package challenges them beyond anything they’ve done before,” he added. “The unknown target estimation challenges them in the math and angle of shooting well.”
The mountainous terrain forces the snipers to shoot downward at their targets, teaching them to perfect a new technique.
“We learn the ins and outs of a different kind of warfare,” said one scout sniper student in the course. “We learn high angle shooting to give us more confidence in our abilities.”
The second phase of the course exposes the Marines to the elements on the mountain, teaching them techniques of movement and survival.
“Snipers are leaders,” Williams said. “We expose them to everything and [show them] many different tools to use. In the end, it’s up to them to decide what works and what doesn’t.”
The Marines are taught many techniques such as adapting to mountain living, and boiling snow to make water. Some lesser-known equipment is also added to the Marines’ arsenal, such as skis, snow shoes and other options to traverse snowy terrain. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide which is most effective to use.
“They learn to live in this environment,” Williams said. “They learn to eat and drink, get acclimated to the elevation and learn snow mobility.”
The course not only prepares Marines for mountainous snow-covered environments, but also the mountains of Afghanistan, Williams said.
“Being able to shoot from a mountain is really important and realistic in Afghanistan,” said another scout sniper, who participated in the training. The third and final portion of the course combined everything the Marines learned. The Mountain Scout Sniper class 1-11 began their final test Jan. 22, 2011, night.
In groups of around 7-8 Marines, they hiked 8 kilometers through mountainous terrain, where they dug in and set up an observation point on their valley target below. Jan. 25, 2011, the snipers would test their fire with role players.
Firing blank ammunition, the snipers would follow the role players and their movements. When their shot is fired, a target is placed where the role player stood to test their accuracy.
Through the challenges of the course, Marines grew closer together as they faced many trials associated with mountain warfare.