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Snipers train to provide precise support from above

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As a gentle breeze swayed the grass from side to side, the sound of buzzing insects echoed through the training grounds. However, these sounds were soon overcome by the sound of an incoming helicopter.

This was the scene as an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter landed to pick up Marine snipers at Camp Hansen Oct. 15.

Marines with Special Operations Training Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF, and elements of 3rd Marine Division, III MEF, conducted aerial sniper training to familiarize themselves with providing support to visit, board, search and seizure missions.

The training, which is part of the urban sniper course, is meant to ensure the Marines are able to hit their targets from a helicopter while providing security for Marines on the ground or on a ship.

During the course, the Marines practiced how to fire from various locations, including an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, which was provided by the 33rd Rescue Squadron, 18th Operations Group, 18th Wing.

"Today we practiced providing security for visit, board, search and seizure missions," said Lance Cpl. Gregory J. Voner, a scout sniper with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which is assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF. "We practiced this by flying overhead and acquiring our targets as well as providing intelligence for the Marines on the ground conducting the raid."

The training will allow the Marines to support force reconnaissance units during raids, said Cpl. Nevin G. Fowler, a reconnaissance man with 3rd Reconnaissance Bn.

"The training is great," said Fowler. "The entire course itself is two weeks long, and we are getting a lot of knowledge that will benefit us in the future."

Although it is already extremely difficult to shoot from a helicopter in flight, there are other factors the Marines had to consider before pulling the trigger.

"The hardest part of shooting today were the different variables we had to consider when shooting from a helicopter," said Fowler. "There is the downdraft and vibrations from the helicopter and also natural environmental factors, such as wind or rain, that will ultimately affect the shot we take."

Despite the difficulties that come with shooting from a helicopter, the Marines were able to perform well, according to Fowler.

"It really pushed all of us to our limits, and I feel we surpassed those limits," said Fowler. "We owe our success to the instructors. The knowledge and skills they passed on to us really made the difference."

The instructors understand how difficult the training can be and demand undivided attention from the Marines.

"This sniper course is very difficult," said Staff Sgt. Malachi Evan, the lead marksmanship instructor for the course with SOTG. "If you don't have complete attention to detail and you aren't dedicated to what you are doing, this course is really hard to pass."

Although the Marines previously graduated from the basic sniper course, this course allows Marines to learn skills they may not have received, according to Evan.

"They learn about ballistic computers, shooting from barricades, max point blank and some other training that we give them, all of which takes their skills up to a whole other level," said Evan.

Article by Lance Cpl. Daniel E. Valle, Marine Corps Installations Pacific