By Lance Cpl. Timothy Lenzo, 1st Marine Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Afghanistan (May 7, 2012) — Afghan soldiers will add a new weapon to their arsenal, when recent graduates from a marksmanship course return to their bases. The newly trained soldiers will carry a M24 sniper rifle, a weapon recently acquired by the local kandak.
Afghan National Army Sgt. Abdul Kareem, a soldier with 1st Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, sights in with his M24 sniper rifle, during a live-fire range, May 2, 2012. The kandak will use the rifle in overwatch positions for their squads. (Photo by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo)
The weeklong marksmanship course, taught by a Marine scout sniper team, covered maintenance of the M24 sniper rifle, firing the rifle at a distance of 450 meters, memory and observation tests. The tests require soldiers to scan a field and identify as many hidden military objects as possible, in a 30-minute time limit.
“I had never used this rifle before and was excited to fire the [weapon] at the longer distances,” said Afghan National Army Gunnery Sgt. Mohammad Hasan, an academy instructor with 1st Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps.
Though, the firing range might be the most exciting part for many of the soldiers, the memory and observation tests are just as important.
“As [overwatch] a lot of the job is to be observant,” said Lance Cpl. Sam Chrupcala, a squad automatic weapon gunner with the scout sniper team instructing the course. “You have to be able to see a lot of the things that other people wouldn’t.”
Chrupcala, currently serving with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is part of a seven-man team training the ANA soldiers. The kandak acquired the rifles but lacked the proper training to use them.
Hasan said the kandak soldiers haven’t been previously trained on this weapon and needed the Marines to instruct them.
Hasan joined 15 Afghan soldiers for the course.
“The [Marksmanship] course is going very well,” said Hasan through an interpreter. “We are going to have great success from this course.”
Chrupcala, a native of Barrington, R.I., said it’s always difficult to learn a new rifle system, but the Afghans have been working hard.
“They’ve been good at picking up the new stuff,” Chrupcala said. “They’ve been really good at listening and trying new things.”
Hasan impressed his Marine instructors the first day of shooting. He was the most accurate of the ANA soldiers.
Hasan said he remembered the Marines’ advice to take his time and control his breathing. This helped him with tightly grouping his shots.
Chrupcala challenged the Afghan soldiers to pay close attention and to try to be the best marksman they could be.
“Some of the soldier’s shot really well today,” Chrupcala said.
Many of the soldiers will return to their tolais, which is another word for squad, after graduating from the course.
The Afghan soldiers will provide new support to their teams from the training they received here.
“They’ll be able to provide their squads with overwatch and be able to observe an area before they patrol through,” Chrupcala said. “This might be able to prevent more people from getting hurt, saving lives.”
In addition to supporting the patrols, the range of the new rifle allows Afghan soldiers to engage insurgents from a safe distance away. The maximum effective range for the rifle is 800 meters.
Hasan will stay here with another instructor after the other soldiers return to their tolais. He’ll be ready to help teach the next M24 sniper rifle marksmanship course as the ANA take more responsibility from coalition forces.
“We are going to learn to use [the rifle] and in the future we are going to teach our soldiers,” Hasan said.
Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is part of Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.