FORT STEWART, Ga. (March 5, 2012) -- Forty Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, took a shot at sharpening their shooting skills, Feb. 13-24, with the help of a professional rifle team.
Helping to raise the standard of Soldier-marksmanship proficiency, three members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, based at Fort Benning, Ga., came to Fort Stewart to ensure that the Vanguard Brigade is right on target.
"We're teaching marksmanship, and we start at its simplest form - getting (the Soldiers) to understand exactly how to make good shots consistently," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Mangione, a shooter instructor with the USAMU.
On most Army small arms ranges the furthest target is 300 meters away, a distance only expert shooters manage to hit. During the advanced marksman course taught by the AMU, the 4IBCT, 3rd ID Soldiers learned how to successfully engage 400-meter, and even 600-meter targets.
They also learned how to calculate the effects of wind and how to better engage moving targets.
"Overall we want them to be confident in their abilities," Mangione said. "We're having the shooters here shoot out to the maximum effective range of their weapons system, and sometimes beyond. That's quite an accomplishment for these Soldiers, and it drastically increases their confidence level going into theater -- knowing that they're that much more lethal and they are that much more prepared to engage the enemy."
Mangione and his team from the distinguished rifle unit spend half of the year participating in challenging shooting competitions. The other half of the year is spent traveling to Army installations to teach the skills that have helped them earn a spot in their elite organization. The group of 4IBCT, 3rd ID Soldiers who attended this course, will in turn take the lessons they've learned to help train up their fellow 'Vanguard' comrades.
"Each one of these Soldiers is going to end up being their unit's marksmanship instructor, and they will help implement a better marksmanship program for their (respective) unit," explained Staff Sgt. Marvin Deese, a gunnery sergeant with B Battery, 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th IBCT.
Desse, a former Marine and Army Drill Sergeant, said that though he has plenty of experience using his rifle, he has benefited greatly from the two-week course.
"Everyone out here has certainly learned something to help better their marksmanship ability," he said, adding that the class particularly helped him become more familiar with his magnified scope.
Deese also said that his confidence in his ability to successfully shoot at far distances has increased.
Sergeant Colt Lowry, a cavalry scout with the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4IBCT, said he has improved his firing techniques.
"Before this class I had a hard time hitting a 300 meter target at the range," he said. "Now, I can hit the 400-meter target, without optics."
The self-satisfaction is two-fold, though, as Mangione says the opportunity to teach the course is a rewarding experience.
"It's a wonderful feeling to see their proficiency increase and too see their confidence just skyrocket. I've been in their shoes," he said. "The enemy is constantly changing and adapting and we need to stay at the forefront and make sure the Soldiers are getting the skills that they need to adapt and take out the enemy."