By Staff Sgt. Jason Douglas, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsJanuary 20, 2009
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait-To most regular movie fans, the word "sniper" brings to mind a very specific image: a Soldier dressed in a ghillie suit, face covered in war paint, with weapon in tow -- low-crawling across the jungle floor stalking his prey under cover of darkness.
However, one of the overlooked weapon experts are Squad Designated Marksman -- not quite a sniper but not just an average infantryman or scout.
A Soldier is selected as a SDM based on his marksmanship skills; he must qualify as an expert on his assigned weapon as well as have extensive weapons knowledge. Soldiers can be selected or volunteer for this position.
The SDM fulfills the duties of their primary military occupational specialty as well as provide mid-range shots to achieve the squad's objectives.
While regular Army snipers receive formal training at Fort Benning, Ga., SDMs attend a two day class at their respective installations which consist of one day of classroom instruction and weapons zeroing, and the second day designated for weapons qualification.
One such marksman is Chicago native Spc. Stephen Battisto, a cavalry scout for over three years assigned to Troop C, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
According to Battisto, he never picked up a rifle prior to joining the Army and even had difficulties qualifying at the range while attending basic training.
"The drill sergeant took me to the side after failing to qualify several times and told me to take a break and relax," Battisto said. "After that, I hit 39 out of 40 targets."
There was no holding back for Battisto when he arrived to 4th Sqdrn., 9th Cav. Regt. He became a SDM and was assigned the M-14 carbine rifle.
According to Battisto, although SDMs and snipers seem to have very similar functions, the two are separated by small differences.
"[SDMs] don't look for high value targets like snipers, we operate within a squad and can carry up to two weapons," Battisto said.
Even after cataract surgery, Battisto is still able to fire well and takes great pride in being blessed with a special talent.
Battisto said it's an honor to apply his skills to benefit his unit, his country and help his fellow brothers.
Another SDM is Staff Sgt. Michael Lashua a cavalry scout from Troop B, 4th Sdqrn., 9th Cav. Lashua of Walker, La., a 12-year veteran and a former Marine, grew up as an avid hunter and marksman who relished the idea of being an Army marksman.
"I like the precision that's required and doing something and doing it well," Lashua said.
Lashua doesn't mind working the extra hours to qualify on the extra weapon.
"You have to be willing to give an extra effort and do extra training," Lashua said.
Lashua, who is even considering applying to the U.S. Army sniper school, believes that SDMs are a huge asset on the battlefield.