Cpl. R. Logan Kyle
ARMY AMMUNITION DEPOT HAWTHORNE, Nev. - After making a slight wind adjustment, the observer gives the go-ahead to fire. With the scope’s crosshairs aligned perfectly, the shooter slowly squeezes the trigger. Target down.
Royal Dutch Marines with Sniper Team, 24th Company, 2nd Battalion, with little to no guidance from Marine instructors, took advantage of the elevation atop Rocket Mountain here to conduct high-angle, live-fire exercises Monday through Thursday.
The snipers fired their rifles at targets anywhere from 900 to 1,200 meters away, said Staff Sgt. Eddie Syc, the chief instructor of the Mountain Snipers Course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, Calif.
“They don’t have a facility like this in the Netherlands,” said Syc, an Orange, Conn., native. “They come out here once a year to conduct these high-angle exercises. The maximum effective range of their .338 caliber sniper rifles is 1,400 meters, and they’re pushing the limit firing at these targets.”
Sgt. Maj. Ed Martens, the lead sniper instructor with Sniper Team, 24th Co., 2nd Bn., Royal Dutch Marines, said he looks forward to coming to California every year.
“Everything’s all flat in the Netherlands,” said Martens, a Boxmeer, Holland, native. “This is the ultimate training area for these guys.”
Cpl. Stefan Brouwers, a sniper with 24th Co.’s Sniper Team, said the road to becoming a Dutch sniper was long and rough.
“Becoming a sniper is a one-man show,” said the Rotterdam, Holland, native. “If you fail it’s your own fault.”
In the Royal Dutch Marines, potential snipers start out with a two-day assessment that involves shooting, map reading and a basic physical test, he said. After the assessment stage, the trainees begin training solely on marksmanship, learning the weapon and how things like weather can affect the trajectory of the round.
Marine 1st Class Toby Wittenboer, a sniper with the team, said marksmanship isn’t the only thing snipers must be experts at.
“We have to be able to track and locate targets without them catching on to us,” said Wittenboer, a Mierlo, Holland, native. “In order for us to kill the enemy we have to get close enough to take the shot while remaining undetected.”
Brouwers said the majority of a Royal Dutch Marine sniper’s training comes from joint training with allied nations around the world.
“We’ve picked up a lot of experience from militaries from just about everywhere,” he said. “We’ve trained in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Germany and just about every other friendly nation out there.”
He said having the opportunity to constantly travel the world, learn new tactics and meet new friends is something he easily became accustomed to.
“I personally like to be on the move,” he said. “If we’re back on base in Holland for too long I start to get restless.”
Wittenboer said his favorite training has been right here in the United States.
“Arizona is the best place to me so far,” he said. “We went through a trackers course out there. Now I know how to trace someone as far as 10 clicks [km] away from me.”
However, the most important weapon in the sniper’s arsenal is not his rifle, or even his ability to track the enemy - it’s his observer. The observer is responsible for making all the wind and other adjustments to insure the target is eliminated, said Sgt. Vince Manusama, a sniper with the team.
“The observer has a lot better scope and can tell where the shooter’s round hits and what adjustments he needs to make,” said the Groningen, Holland, native. “It makes things run a lot smoother and faster.”
Each sniper had the chance to shoot and be an observer throughout the training to ensure maximum effectiveness of the exercise.
The snipers completed their training at Hawthorne and are now on their way back to the Netherlands. They are slated to deploy to Afghanistan to support other Dutch and Australian forces in November.