Members of the 28th Security Forces Squadron conducted sniper training on an off-base shooting range in the Black Hills, South Dakota. , Jan. 23, 2018, to prepare for the Advanced Designated Marksman course at Fort Bliss, TX., in February.
This Air Force training qualifies Airmen to be part of Close Precision Engagement Teams, or Counter Sniper Teams, who are charged with protecting flight lines and other sensitive areas. They are trained to remove threats that could damage or destroy aircraft and prevent air missions from being conducted.
Each Close Precision Engagement Team is composed of two individuals, a sniper and spotter. The spotter identifies targets, gathers range and wind adjustments and relays this information to the sniper. The sniper makes the adjustments on their rifle and fires on the target.
“The weapon we use in the course is the M-24 rifle with an M-3A telescopic sight,” said Airman 1st Class Hayden Wilson, a response force leader assigned to the 28th SFS. “It fires the standard 173 grain NATO 7.62 round with a five round magazine. The Airmen will be expected to shoot targets at 600 meters and moving targets.”
The course is more than just firing a weapon. Physical training drills are conducted every day to place the student under extreme stress during which, memory tests are given by the instructors to insure they can operate in stressful situations in the field.
“When we are downrange, we are more along the lines of defense, fitting the whole core concept of Security Forces,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Miller, a security forces evaluator assigned to the 28th SFS. “We are a force multiplier to deter terrorist attacks. On top of that, we set up listening and observation posts to collect intelligence and route it up, as well as provide over watch which is a deterrent across the station.”
In 2001 with Operation Enduring Freedom currently in Afghanistan, Air Force Security Forces leadership recognized the need for a specialized team to assist in exterior base reconnaissance and support for Security Forces personnel outside the base perimeter, thus the ADM course was born.
“A lot of people think getting behind a rifle is a relatively simple task, but precision and accurate rifle fire, especially when it comes to eliminating a target or taking a life, is something that you need to maintain,” Miller explained. “It’s easily perishable. This is why we train in this course, to get our Airmen to that level and keep them proficient.”
CPE Teams have been deployed in both Afghanistan and Iraq in support of Air Force missions. These teams are an essential part of the overall base defense plan.
“This training is very unique, not everyone in the Air Force gets to experience it,” Wilson said. “It’s something that I absolutely love, getting behind the rifle and throwing lead down range.”