Some of the greatest battles of history consisted of two armies drawn up in static lines fighting it out across a barren no man’s land. The two sides would punish each other until one group could no longer handle the pressure and fell.
The battles of today are different; they are dynamic, and the battle lines of old have been replaced by small groups of men trained to constantly move in an effort to bring the fight to the enemy. The men in these units must make snap decisions. In a split second they must positively identify, and in some cases accurately engage, the enemy.
The Marines of Headquarters Battery, Task Force Military Police, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, recently spent time learning how to quickly and efficiently engage the enemy during Enhanced Marksmanship Program training at the Al Asad fire and maneuver range, Sept. 5, 11, and 13.
“It’s an enhanced marksmanship program to basically let them know how to shoot with the actual gear and equipment and show them how it feels to get rounds on target with all that gear on,” said Gunnery Sgt. Julio Gonzalez, the headquarters battery gunnery sergeant. “It gets them accustomed to all those things, so that way they are more comfortable with the weapon.”
First, the Marines established their battlesight zeroes, which provides them with the ideal settings for their sights. The Marines set their BZOs on their iron sights and their rifle combat optics as well. The redundancy ensures the Marines can still fire accurately if one method fails, according to Gonzalez.
“They know that no matter if they are in low light, no light, or in high light, they will be able to shoot with any of the three,” explained Gonzalez.
Wearing a full combat load, the Marines were required to place well aimed shots into their targets within different time limits. From close range, the Marines fired controlled pairs, hammer pairs, and failure to stop drills. They also practiced combat reloads and spinning to face their targets. The situations the Marines encountered on the EMP range are designed to prepare them for what they may encounter outside the wire.
“I haven’t been engaged in real combat, but I would think that there’s rarely a situation where you’re out there and you get your nice little tripod going with your bone support, and you take a shot at 500 meters out and then mark it in your data book and adjust for windage,” said Cpl. Kevin Kelleher, a convoy coordinator with TFMP. “That’s important, but in a combat scenario it’s much more likely that you’re going to be 50 yards or less when you have to engage somebody.”
While the Known Distance range back in the states teaches Marines the fundamentals of marksmanship, the EMP range is designed to help Marines translate those fundamentals to the combat zone.
“Both the KD course and the EMP have their advantages,” said Kelleher, who has also worked as a range coach. “Obviously the KD course is focused on the fundamentals, and every marine needs fundamentals. Anytime you’re going pick up a rifle you need to know the seven steps to a good shooting position, just because you want to always revert to that muscle memory. But in addition to that, the EMP range further enhances that by applying those fundamentals to a combat situation. You’re moving around, your spinning, and your shooting a few more rounds at the target than you would at the KD course.”
Another important lesson the Marines learn on the EMP range is how to get positive identification of their target. Marines need to ensure that their target is indeed an enemy before their finger ever touches the trigger.
“It’s still a structured range, but it’s fire and maneuver,” explained Gonzalez. “It’s more learning how to stay in your lane, shoot in your lane, and how to get positive identification. The targets to the left and to the right need to be free of rounds.
We try to get it down to as quickly as we can, for them to be able to get positive identification on the target, and still be able to put rounds downrange in the time limit.”
The Marines of TFMP provide convoy security teams and conduct security operations throughout the Al Anbar Province. Another important reason for conducting the range was that it prepared the Marines of HQ Battery to augment their brothers outside the wire, according to Gonzalez.
“If we need combat replacements, they are going to come from headquarters battery,” said Gonzalez. “That’s why we have to train. We have to keep the Marines sharp, especially with their marksmanship skills, because at any time someone can be pulled to augment somebody else.”
At the end of the day, even though most had sweat soaking through their uniforms, the Marines enjoyed the EMP range and recognize that it taught them some important lessons, according to Kelleher.
“Anytime you’re able to actually use the thing that hangs in front of you 24 hours a day is a good thing,” said Kelleher with a smile. “If, for whatever reason, I need to go outside the wire, it helps bolster confidence in everyone. It gets everybody up to that level. And since we still do train everyone as a rifleman, whether or not they are actually a rifleman is a moot point, because you know that you’re at that same level, and that the guy to your left and your right is too.”