Cavalry Soldiers hone angular marksmanship skills
April 21, 2010
CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. - Soldiers shooting high or low during weapons qualifications is bad, but a 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry troop purposely trained shooting high and low at Camp Guernsey, Wyo. April 11.
Troop A, 3-89 Cav. Soldiers conducted high angle-low angle marksmanship training in Camp Guernsey's Saw Mill Canyon.
Capt. Graham Hughes, Troop A commander, said the skill of shooting and hitting targets well above or below Soldiers will be vital to their survival during their upcoming deployment.
"Because the terrain in Afghanistan is really mountainous, a lot of the engagements are going to be at severe angles," said Hughes. "You are going to be shooting up or down at greater ranges - based on all of the information we are getting from Afghanistan right now. This is ... teaching the Soldiers how to shoot and how to adjust the point of aim shooting at these angles."
Before conducting the high-low angle range, Troop A Soldiers zeroed their weapons and fired at long ranges, out to about 500 meters on a flat plane, to ensure their weapons were firing accurately. Following firing at such severe angles, they continued their well-rounded marksmanship training at Camp Guernsey on a multipurpose machinegun range before beginning crew-served weapons engagements.
Sgt. Everett Enstine, Troop A Bravo Section squad leader, said his Soldiers are performing well and doing a lot of things they have never done. Many Soldiers in Enstine's squad have never shot their weapons at 400 or 500 meter distances. The known-distance range offered them an opportunity to do that before the high angle-low angle shooting, which they have never done before either, said Enstine.
As for the value of high-low angle marksmanship skills, Hughes described several situations in which his Soldiers might use them in Afghanistan. As examples, he cited setting up observation posts (OPs) and conducting convoys.
"We can set up OPs in elevated positions over-watching specific routes; so if we are up there watching and we see enemy forces trying to emplace an IED (Improvise Explosive Device), we would be clear to engage," explained Hughes. "Again, if we are in that elevated position looking down on them, now we know how to adjust our fire so we are not wasting rounds chasing them away, letting them get out.
"If we are doing any kind of a mounted convoy and we get ambushed, if we are in a deep ravine and enemy forces are shooting down on us, now we know how to engage them shooting at a high angle," he continued.
Hughes pointed out that not only infantrymen and cavalry scouts need the ability to fire weapons at high and low angles in Afghanistan, but also Soldiers in support roles must have these skills. "You never know when or where it is going to happen," he said.
Sgt. Josue Martinez is a section sergeant in Apache Troop who supervises six Soldiers; all cavalry scouts. Martinez, who has served two tours in Iraq, realizes the value of having high-low angle shooting skills. He said the training is outstanding and is going to help him and his Soldiers when they get to Afghanistan, especially given the hilly terrain and high elevations. It really pushes them, and gives them a glimpse of reality.
"In the real world, you have got that adrenaline going. Over here, you are training and the Soldiers know that running up the hills at this elevation with all you gear on is going to be hard; but it is going to be good for them, because once we get over there it is a different story," said Martinez. "Once you are over there ... your blood just starts pumping, and by the time ... you are going ... in the hills, you know what to expect, pretty much."
Sgt. Shane Daniels, another Bravo section squad leader, said it is good to see and train in terrain similar to that of Afghanistan. The ability to adjust fires for high and low angles is one of the advantages of training at Camp Guernsey.
"We know that the enemy in Afghanistan likes to get up high and try to shoot down on you, so it is nice to know how to effectively fire on people above you," said Daniels. "And occasionally, we are going to be above them, and we will be firing down on them, so it is good to know how to properly get a good sight picture."
Training in rough, mountainous terrain has other advantages too. Enstine said Camp Guernsey provides a really good opportunity for drivers and dismounted troops to gain experience traversing rugged, hilly landscapes, something they cannot accomplish at their home station.
Daniels noticed that some of his Soldiers are getting short winded more quickly than at home. Acclimation to exertion in a higher elevation is another advantage to training at 4,500 to 5,000 feet above sea level. Many Apache Troop Soldiers are realizing they need to do a lot of lower-body exercises in the gym; however, they are learning to adapt and the training at Camp Guernsey has been excellent - "top of the line," said Daniels.
Ranges such as the high-low angle marksmanship range Troop A conducted in Saw Mill Canyon presents yet another advantage to training at Camp Guernsey. Hughes said these types of ranges allow his unit to really focus on missions they need to accomplish.
"The ranges they have here are outstanding. I haven't seen ranges this good in a long time," said Hughes. "They have some opportunities, scenarios and ranges that we just don't have available at Fort Polk that allow us to work our weapons systems a lot more than we have in the past.
"It (training in this environment) builds that confidence in the Soldiers and their equipment (such) that they know they can do it," Hughes continued. "Hopefully, that will reduce any issues we might have over there (Afghanistan), so I think it is an outstanding place."
As Apache Troop commander, Hughes said his primary focus for high-low angle marksmanship is having his Soldiers zero in on targets fast and them getting rounds on target in the first few shots. They have been successful too. Some Troop A Soldiers hit targets up to 700 meters away using Advanced Combat Optical Gunsights (ACOGs), and one Soldier hit the target using an M-68 Close Combat Optic. That is good shooting, he said.
Most enemy engagements in Afghanistan are occurring between 500 and 800 meters, said Hughes. "The fact that they (Apache Troop Soldiers) are able to hit those targets at 700 and 600 meters right now is great," he said.
"These guys are working really hard; they are busting their butts, because they know that our time up here is limited. They are getting after it, and they are doing an outstanding job," said Hughes. "They are coming up with their own ideas as we go ... so we are developing our SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) while we are out here that will make us a more effective fighting force down the road when we do more training and we get to Afghanistan, eventually."