CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- Atrophy is defined as ‘a wasting away, deterioration, or diminution of something due to lack of use.’ It’s a condition Marines in Iraq won’t experience.
Lance Cpl. Brian M. Cloonan, who by trade is a designated marksmen, finds himself deployed to Fallujah to provide security for military convoys.
“As designated marksmen, our mission (normally) is to support security operations,” explained the 20-year-old member of 2nd Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company, Marine Corps Security Force Battalion. “If our platoon were to make a hit on a building, we’d be off someplace making sure nobody gets in or out who’s not supposed to.”
The Chino Hills, Calif., further added that FAST Marines act as an anti-terrorism quick reaction force, and are among the first troops to respond to certain international crises.
Marines from 2nd FAST Company were some of the first boots on the ground during Operation Secure Tomorrow, when a task force of Chilean, French, Canadian and American troops helped bring about security and stability to Haiti after former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted Feb. 29.
“It was a platoon from our company that went down to Haiti and secured the embassy,” Cloonan explained.
However, due to the current nature of operations in Iraq, he and fellow designated marksmen are accomplishing missions different from their usual designated marksman tasks.
“Here, we’re doing a lot of convoy security,” the 2003 Ruben S. Ayala High School graduate explained. “Right now, we’re attached to (Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group). We’re all just going out on convoys as drivers, gunners … basically whatever they need us to do.”
As they perform these new tasks, Cloonan’s unit still maintains proficiency in their old ones.
Members of 2nd FAST Company practiced firing their M-14 DMR sniper rifles and adjusting their sights aboard 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s range.
“We’re getting a warm weather (battle sight zero) for our rifles,” Cloonan stated. “Last time we BZOed these weapons, it was 30 degrees outside.”
Marines BZO their weapons to ensure their rounds hit where they aim. Differences in breathing patterns, eyesight, and climate affect how the rounds impact the target, so troops fire several shot groups and observe where the rounds impact after each string of fire.
According to Cloonan, a round strikes lower on a target during cold weather firing.
This range also allowed the FAST Marines a chance to re-familiarize themselves with their rifles to maintain their marksmanship skills.
Operational requirements could change at a moment’s notice in the ever-changing world of insurgent warfare, so Marines like Cloonan must keep their skills sharpened to razor-edge perfection.