Task Force Currahee hosted a set of training classes on the newly-issued M14EBRMTT rifle at forward operating base Salerno, Khost province during August and September of 2008.

The third of four classes began Sept. 8 ending just shy of one week. Eight Soldiers from different units across five provinces within Task Force Currahee.
The 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team is the first unit in Afghanistan to begin issuing these weapons. One hundred and eighteen are currently in use within the task force, and more are expected to be issued before the end of the deployment.

The M14 is considered a more realistic 'long-range' patrol weapon than the standard M24 rifle used by snipers, explained Sgt. Maj. Lewis Worrell, 4th BCT's operations sergeant major, and primary instructor. It is also a semi-automatic firing system, allowing the shooter to fire a magazine of 20-precision 7.62 mm rounds quickly, while the M24 rifle is loaded one round at a time.

With a maximum effective range of 1000 meters, nearly double the range of a standard issue infantry weapon, special training has become a priority to educate the Soldier on how to use this weapon.

"We are not training snipers," said Worrell. "Instead, we are training Soldiers to be Squad Designated Marksmen."

Worrell, formerly a first sergeant at the U.S. Army Sniper School, worked closely with Sgt. 1st Class Michael Conner, 4th BCT's training room Non-Commissioned Officer, to design the classes to cater to the attending Soldier's needs as they learned about their new M14.

The instructors were assisted by Jesus Guitierrez and James Davis, two observation control trainers from MPRI, a company providing military and law enforcement training, simulations and government services. Guitierrez and Davis are experts on the new M14, and came to assist TF Currahee with training on the new weapons.

The training was broken down into one classroom instructional day and three range days. During the classroom portion, every aspect of the weapon was discussed.

Assembly, disassembly, cleaning and maintenance was demonstrated and more extensive coverage on long-range, distance firing was discussed. New features on the weapon were also pointed out and talked about.

The new M14 has several noticeable physical changes than the previous model. The entire weapon now has a rail interface system and adjustable metal buttstock, as opposed to the solid wood or metal casing that once covered more than 60 percent of the weapon to include the buttstock.

"Another addition is a change in scope," said Davis. "The new M14 comes equipped with the Leupold 3.5x10mm Long Range Tactical scope, which has simplified adjustment system and a more fine-tuned precision rate than its predecessor.

The new M14 was put to the test on the distance ranges. The Soldiers started off the morning of the first range day with basic weapon 'zero-ing.' This is where the shooter fires at a short range target to fine-tune his aim, make minor adjustments to his weapon, and associate himself on how the weapon fires.

After making their adjustments, the Soldiers shifted to a longer range set of target about 250 to 300 meters out. At this distance, the marksmen checked their adjustments for accuracy and began to associate with firing at a farther distance.

The next two days, the marksmen fired at distances varying from 300 meters to 1000 meters. The Soldiers made marked improvements on their long-distance firing with the practice and weapon association, noted Conner. On the fourth day, the instructors put the Soldiers to the test with scenario and adrenaline firing. The Soldiers practiced firing from in, on, under, around and from vehicles.

"We ran up a steep rocky hill," said Sgt. Robert McCullum, from 4th BCT Headquarters and Headquarters Company, and one of the class attendees. "When we came back down, Sgt. Maj. Worrell had us do flutterkicks and jumping jacks for a few min, then lie down and shoot."

The Soldiers then did some strenuous exercises and got their adrenaline pumping to test their reaction when asked to make a long distance shot at one of the targets.
"At the platoon level, this weapon can dramatically increase the platoon's effective firing range," said Conner "The Soldiers really seemed to improve not only with their firing skills but with their overall knowledge of the M14. We are hoping that when they go back to their units they will continue to improve."

There will be one more training class to be held this month, and the instructors are confident to have another successful group of 'graduates' completing the course soon.