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Pfc. Nathan Murdock, rifleman, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, fires his M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle at a target during the Designated Marksman Course’s culminating event at Range 113, Jan. 28, 2016. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

First IAR designated marksman course held aboard Combat Center

3 Feb 2016 | Story by Cpl. Julio McGraw Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment concluded their Designated Marksman Course aboard the Combat Center, Jan. 28, 2016.

More than 10 "Cutting Edge" and "Darkside" Marines in two-man teams, known as shooter-spotter teams, participated in the three-week course utilizing the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle with the culminating event occurring at Range 113.

Unlike snipers, designated marksmen use the inherent accuracy of the M27 IAR, to positively identify and destroy targets at distances up to 550 meters. However, their primary duty is to support their teams’ ability to conduct tactical movement as automatic riflemen.

“What we are doing is giving these Marines the marksmanship skills to take back to their units and share with their squads, platoons and companies,” said Cpl. Jacob Weller, combat marksmanship trainer, Marksmanship Training Unit. “Once they start doing their work-up for deployment, they can start utilizing the skills they learned here, which gives a squad, platoon or company the ability to employ them at their own means.”

This is the first time a DM course is being held aboard the Combat Center utilizing this rifle.

“The optics they are shooting with, are the standard [squad automatic-weapon day optic],” Weller said. “The reason we did it this way is because when these units deploy, they might not have certain capabilities but they will have their IAR’s with SDO’s.”

This three-week course was designed by Weller and MTU combat marksmanship trainers; 1st Lt. Lauren Luther, Cpl. Joshua Smith, Cpl. Anthony Lubbers, and Lance Cpl. Erick Nickle. The instructors engaged the Marines with classroom instruction teaching them about basic field sketches, ballistics and range estimations, as well as firing on known-distance ranges and unknown-distance ranges.

“The course that security forces teach uses the M110 [Semi-Automatic Sniper System] and we created this course with elements from their curriculum,” Weller said. “The difference is we rebuilt it to incorporate the IAR with the SDO as the primary weapon. The biggest problem that arose was there was no DM qualification standard for shooting with the IAR. This mission was built around the use of a M110 SASS, and having to change the standards to make it challenging yet attainable for the Marines has been difficult.”

During the culminating event, the shooter-spotter pairs took a written test. They then proceed to the firing line where they are given 40 minutes to distinguish 10 targets and calculate the range of the targets between 250 to 550 meters. During this time, the pair also calculates the elements of nature, such as time-of-day and wind speed, that would affect the round at those distances. Once the 40 minutes are over and the team’s calculations are complete, the shooters engage each target. If the shooter misses, he is allotted three seconds to adjust and re-engage the target.

“This course was challenging but it definitely makes a Marine who knows these skills a valuable asset to their unit,” said Cpl. Robert Ellis., rifleman, 3/4. “Not only because we can distinguish targets and point members of our unit in the right direction, but we now have the ability to teach everyone in our squad or platoon how to be just as effective as us on the battlefield, which has the potential of saving lives.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms