Photo Information

Cpl. Miles E. Cooley, a team leader for the sniper platoon, Headquarters and Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, tests the rigging that has been placed inside the door of a Navy Sikorsky HH-60H Rescue Hawk at Camp Horno, Nov. 29. Marines from the platoon were given the rare opportunity to go up in a helicopter and practice allocating targets through their scopes. The rigging is one of the most important parts of the exercise and using different ways to set up is vital for them because they may employ these types of tactics on their upcoming deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Photo by Cpl. Jeremy Fasci

Snipers and Helicopters pair up to train for MEU

29 Nov 2011 | Cpl. Jeremy Fasci 1st Marine Division

Locating and firing at moving targets is difficult for any sniper; doing it from the door of a Navy Sikorsky HH-60H Rescue Hawk in flight is a new challenge for these Marines.

Marines from the sniper platoon, Headquarters and Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, took a rare opportunity to fly over Camp Horno to practice target allocation and sighting-in on the move, Nov. 29, in preparation for their upcoming deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based out of Okinawa, Japan.

“We linked up with some Navy 60s, sending a spotter and shooter on each of the aircraft to practice employing ourselves from an aerial asset, which is something that we do, but that we don’t get an opportunity to practice very often,” said 2nd Lt. Francis Coppola, sniper platoon commander, H&S Co., 2nd Bn., 1st Marines.

Marines assisting with the exercise were dressed like insurgents, walking and driving through the camp, giving the snipers a target to find. The urban terrain made it difficult to find and sight-in on these targets because of the many obstacles that arise in an urban environment.

“It’s difficulty depends on the pilot. There has to be good communication between the spotter, crew chief and pilot,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jakub Biziorek, sniper platoon sergeant, H&S Co., 2nd Bn., 1st Marines. “If the pilot knows what he’s doing and there is good communication with the sniper, it will actually be a pretty good shot.”

Having more opportunities to practice these types of scenarios gives the Marines from the platoon extra practice and allows them to try new ways of doing things. One of the variables being tested was the different variation of rifle platforms the Marines were using.

“There are a few different variations we can do, and since this is a dry run we are trying to do different things; and whatever works for us, we will continue to use on the MEU,” said Biziorek, 36, from Boca Raton, Fla.

While some Marines gained experience looking through the scope and notionally pulling the trigger, others honed their observation and communication skills as spotters. The spotter is a vital asset for a shooter on the ground or in a helicopter. On the ground, he locates targets and relays them to the shooter; but in the air, he plays an additional role.

“I think the spotter should be just as experienced as the shooter,” said Biziorek. “He does most of the work, he’s looking for targets and communicating with the crew chief and the pilot. All the shooter really does is apply marksmanship skills and take out the target.”

This type of training took them out of their normal environment and even beyond what they may have learned going through sniper school.

“Well these guys are definitely observing what we do. This kind of shoot is an advanced shoot, it’s not even something they do in sniper school,” said Biziorek. “For the new guys it’s definitely important for them to see how the rig is set up because they are going to be doing something like that for the next deployment when they become team leaders.”

1st Marine Division