CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Scout snipers from 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment killed an enemy sniper and recovered a Marine sniper rifle lost nearly two years ago during a mission near Habbaniyah June 16.
The rifle was the one formerly used by four Marines of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment who were killed on a rooftop in Ramadi June 21, 2004.
Sniper Section Four was in a hide when the spotter observed a military-aged male inside a nearby parked car videotaping a passing patrol of amphibious assault vehicles. The Marines saw a rifle stock by the insurgent’s side.
“We were in the right place at the right time,” said Sgt. Kevin Homestead an infantryman from K Company serving as a spotter for the sniper team that day.
They first radioed the passing Marines and told them they were being watched by an enemy sniper and to stay low. The insurgent then sealed his own fate by preparing the weapon. The 21-year-old Marine sniper, who declined to be interviewed – aimed in at the gunman’s head behind the rear-side window.
He recited a mantra in his head. Breathe, relax, aim, squeeze, surprise.
The enemy sniper died with the gun in his lap.
They dialed K Company – or Samurai 6 – and reported the target was dead.
“We then saw another military-aged male ... enter the passenger side door,” said Homestead, 26, from Ontario, Ore. “He was surprised to see the other shooter was killed.”
The second insurgent scurried around the car and jumped in the driver’s seat.
With the sniper now spotting for him, Homestead aimed in with his M-4 carbine and put three bullets in the driver before he could start the car.
A squad of K Company Marines came to the position and saw the sniper dead and the driver shot three times. The driver died as soon as the squad arrived on scene.
They pulled out the sniper rifle and immediately recognized that it was an M-40A1, the same used by the snipers of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in 2004.
The trunk of the car contained a pistol, a hand grenade, dozens of 7.62 mm rounds, multiple license plates and several camcorder tapes.
“When we saw the scope and stock, we knew what it was,” Homestead said.
The rifle was missing for nearly two years – almost to the day. Marines believed the insurgent they killed, or those closely associated with him, had it all along. It is unknown how many times it was used against U.S. and Iraqi forces.
“He was a very good sniper,” Homestead said. “But he got cocky and slipped up and it was our time to catch that.”
The weapon came full circle, having originally belonged to the Darkhorse battalion in Operation Iraqi Freedom I, who turned it over to the “Magnificent Bastards” of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Coincidentally, a Darkhorse sniper killed the insurgent sniper, and a former Magnificent Bastard killed the spotter.
Darkhorse battalion had been dealing with sporadic sniper attacks since arriving in Iraq in January. Now, Marines have one less sniper to worry about.
“It’s very rewarding to take them out the way we did,” said Lt. Col. Patrick G. Looney, the battalion commander. “Doubly rewarding that it’s a 2/4 sniper rifle, even though it won’t bring back the four Marines who were killed that day.”
Triple rewarding that it won’t be used on another Marine or soldier, he added.
“The credit has to go to Sgt. Homestead and the Sniper Section leader who made the kill,” said 1st Lt. J. H. Cusack, Sniper Platoon commander. “It was more than being in the right place at the right time.
“It was the culmination of all of the training and planning the section leader had done up until that moment,” Cusak added. “Being absolutely alert and focused to detect a small clue during a period of apparent inactivity and a perfectly executed shot.”
Darkhorse snipers have since removed the powder and primer from the last 7.62 mm round chambered in the recaptured rifle. They will mount it on a plaque and present it to the Magnificent Bastards’ snipers to honor their lost Marines.
Looney said the ability to give some retribution for their loss makes the day a “grand-slam home run for sniper ops.” He credited the snipers’ professionalism and attitude in accomplishing the mission throughout their area of operations.
“I would say that the guys who shot are typical of the Darkhorse snipers,” said Looney, 43, from Oceanside, Calif. “They’re very proficient, very modest, very busy. They’re out there almost daily doing great things in this AO and our old AO. The fact that they’re taking a back seat and letting the battalion reap the benefits is typical of the kind of Marines they are.”