The weeklong training event began Aug. 19 with a class on properly compensating for bullet drop, wind speed and the three types of ballistics: internal, external and terminal. After classroom instruction, the SDMs spent three days at the range to apply what they learned.
"We are able to take soldiers that have never shot [a weapon] before joining the Army and by the end of the weeklong program, have them easily engaging targets at 400 to 600 meters, reaching the limit of the effective range of the M4 weapon system," said Sgt. Jake Nielsen, senior sniper for A Company, 1-24, a native of McHenry, Ill. "Each SDM shot 400-500 rounds. With that much trigger time we are able to coach the soldiers on how to properly use the reticle in their [advanced combat optical gun sight] to account for bullet drop and wind speed, which can be dramatic at those ranges."
Each platoon has three SDMs. The SDM is chosen for his marksmanship skills and ability to learn and retain knowledge. Once properly trained, the SDM becomes a lethal asset for the squad.
"On patrol, especially in a mountainous environment like many parts of Afghanistan, immediate enemy threats can appear at several hundred meters away," said Staff Sgt. Cory Mathis, a squad leader in A Company, 1-24 IN, a native of Murrieta, Calif. "Often times we don't have snipers attached to our squad, so having an SDM that can fill that role and maintain his position as a squad member performing traditional rifleman tasks multiplies the capabilities of the squad."
"The class on internal, external and terminal ballistics was far more advanced than anything that I learned in Basic Training. Being able to apply what I learned in the classroom on the range was a huge benefit to me," said Spc. Michael Jacobi, a squad-designated marksman in A Company, 1-24 IN, a native of New Orleans. "From this training, I feel confident in my ability to accurately engage targets at long distances, and I know when it's time to pull the trigger in a real-world situation, I will be ready."