MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- He laid still as he peered through his scope on the target 300 meters in front of him. His spotter directed him on where he needed to aim to take out his target. His complete focus was on only what was in his crosshairs to make sure his first shot was his last shot.
Sergeant Michael Henderson, chief scout serving with Charlie Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, trained for the first time with the M107 Special Application Scoped Rifle during a weeklong SASR training course here, July 10.
Henderson said his first time shooting the SASR was a great experience.
"It's something not a lot of guys, especially outside of the sniper community, get to really participate in," said Henderson, a native of Kalamazoo, Mich. "Being able to gain this knowledge myself, being able to get that out to some of the junior guys in the company, will definitely make us a lot stronger asset."
After firing the weapon, Henderson saw how valuable the rifle is to the Marine Corps.
"It’s a great weapon system we have," he said. "It's a great asset being able to reach out that far and disrupt enemy vehicles and other fortified positions.”
Henderson said one of the most important goals from the training is being able to take in all the information he learns, apply them correctly on his own so he can be able to push those skills down to the junior guys in his company.
“It makes 1st LAR as a whole a lot more effective on the battlefield," he said.
Henderson, an eight-year veteran of the Corps, has the experience to know what’s necessary to be effective in combat. He served his first enlistment as a rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, another Camp Pendleton-based battalion.
During one of his combat deployments, the battalion was one of the main efforts during Operation Steel Curtain, a monthlong assault in the insurgent-infested Ubaydi to Husaybah region of Iraq. He fought house to house during the operation, but the combat stretched through his seven-month tour.
After five years with The Professionals, a moniker given to 2nd Bn., 1st Marines, Henderson decided to use his experience as a rifleman to train junior Marines at the Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West.
Three years later, he’s the chief scout of nearly 100 scouts, riflemen who are employed as the light armored vehicle dismounts.
A scout sniper instructor with the Formal Marksmanship Course, Division Schools, 1st Marine Divison, who opts to remain anonymous for security reasons, said it is important for the students to get hands-on experience with the rifle while taking the course.
"The big thing that we're stressing is to use the fundamentals that they already know, and then teach them some of the unique characteristics of the weapon, the differences and help them work through managing the heavier recoil with the weapon system,” he said. “The class also increases their ability to spot, track, help talk the gunners on target and working on their shooter and observer skills."
Henderson's shooting partner, Cpl. Mark Bradley, a fire team leader serving with Charlie Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, said Henderson improved fast on his skills as a scout sniper.
"He has all the basic fundamentals of marksmanship down, said Bradley, a native of Country Club Hills, Ill. "I use him to battle sight zero the weapon because he did an excellent job yesterday and today."
He said it is important to have someone who knows how to handle a rifle that can do so much damage.
"For this type of weapon system and the damage it can do, you're going to need someone with a little bit of experience on it," Bradley said. "It shoots a .50 caliber round, most powerful thing I've shot that's shoulder-fired. It does a lot of damage against vehicles, which can be harmful to the scouts."
Henderson isn't learning how to use the rifle just for himself, but for other Marines who serve alongside him.
"The most important thing for me is to take this knowledge and pass it down to the other scouts within the company," Henderson said. "Having us as scouts capable of employing this weapon system, especially across the large spectrum where it’s not just the few of us that attend this course. In the end, everyone is capable of employing it."
After firing the weapons, he’s confident the other Marines he trains with the SASR will be able to pick it up – and will most likely be enthusiastic about the weapons ammunition caliber, Henderson said.
“We never have to worry about our efficiency with the SASR ever being degraded," he said. "It'll always be an asset we can utilize to reduce whatever enemy we come across."