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24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Scout Snipers kick off Eager Lion 12

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Exercise Eager Lion 12 began with a live-fire training event by the scout sniper platoon from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, May 6, 2012.

It was the first of many unilateral and multilateral training events scheduled for Eager Lion 12 with more than 19 countries and approximately 11,000 participants.

“We are in our unilateral phase right now in preparation for our multilateral training,” said Capt. Jeremy Wilkinson, BLT operations officer. “We are already heavily integrated with our partners and ready for the training ahead.”

The exercise scenario is designed to portray realistic, modern-day security challenges. Participants have been planning Eager Lion for the past three years, and a similar exercise took place in Jordan in 2011.

“The exercise promotes cooperation and interoperability among participating forces, builds functional capacity, practices crisis management, and enhances readiness,” according to U.S. Central Command.

The Marines with the BLT set up camp May 4. Meanwhile, the snipers moved to a position and established the first firing range. They practiced shooting different distances in diverse conditions to study the effects on their rifles: the M40A5 and the M110 semi-automatic sniper system.

“The purpose of this range is to get data on the rifles in Jordan,” said Rendall. “Temperature, air density, humidity, elevation, all play a part in the ballistics. These ranges get the data the Marines need for future shoots.”

The snipers reinforced their skills by adapting to the unique conditions of the Jordanian desert.

“This is good data since we are the middle of the Middle East climate,” said Cpl. William Cardwell, an assistant team leader with the scout sniper platoon. “We can get our readings with humidity, elevation, and practice reading wind through a ‘wadi’ (dry river bed).”

This unique opportunity for a unilateral range allowed the snipers to focus on individual marksmanship essentials without distractions.

“This is a dream for snipers,” said Cardwell, a Knoxville, Tenn., native. “We don’t usually get to come out to a range with an abundance of rounds and get data on our weapons.”

During the pre-deployment training, the sniper platoon conducted minimal platoon-specific training because they separated into their teams and attached to the BLT infantry companies.

“The training during our buildup was pretty rough,” said Cpl. Graham Nunns, team leader and Essex, England, native. “The training recently has been a lot of the same thing, but we need that consistent training to stay sharp.”

The snipers had teams attached to many training operations during the pre-deployment cycle. While they didn’t get many opportunities to shoot data on their rifles, they stayed busy supporting the rest of the BLT.

“We didn’t do a lot as a platoon, but it was pretty crazy during the workups,” said Rendall. “We had our teams in many different places supporting the MEU.”

The 24th MEU is more than one month into their deployment with pre-deployment training well behind them. They have already transitioned through Exercise African Lion 12, which took place in Morocco last month, and are now shifting gears to spearhead much of the multilateral training during Eager Lion.

“This training strengthens ties with Jordanians and Americans for a better partnership in the future,” said Wilkinson.

With this first round down range, the snipers said they are ready for the rest of the exercise. Building international military partnerships is a key component of this international exercise and the 24th MEU plans to continue strengthening those relationships.

Article by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III, 24th MEU