CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT – At the base of a mountain range in Kuwait, a barely visible target is seen standing against the wind. Five hundred meters away, a man shields his face against the blowing sand and lines up the target in the crosshairs of his scope, draws a breath, pauses and fires, then pauses again to hear the ‘plink’ of the bullet on the metal target.
This was one of many shots fired on the last day of training between Soldiers from the 2-300 Field Artillery, 115th Fires Brigade and Kuwait Soldiers from the 68th platoon, 25th Commando Brigade during a two week advanced marksmanship training course on Jan. 7, at a range near Camp Megavier, Kuwait.
The training focused on hitting targets in urban terrain and started with theory in the classroom then shifted to application in the field.
The nine 2-300 F.A. Soldiers were handpicked to lead the joint training because of previous achievements. The instructors were prior active duty with either designated marksmen training or sniper school experience which qualified them to instruct the commandos on both close quarters marksmanship and long distance marksmanship with M9 pistols, M4 rifles, and .308 caliber sniper rifles.
This training gave both groups an opportunity to see how the ‘other side’ does things. Although the Kuwaitis had previous marksmanship training, Staff Sgt. Zachary S. Miller, NCOIC of the training from 2-300 F.A., explained this training was tailored to suit the changing scenery of warfare.
“Now the fight is urban. It’s not going to be in the desert or the jungle or wherever we’re used to fighting,” explained Miller, who spent four years in the active Army and is a qualified Bravo Force sniper. “They’ve been doing very well. They’ve been shooting 1000 meter targets and they’re doing great. They are doing great things for their country and the War on Terrorism.”
The training is one of the extra modules the 68th platoon, which is comparable to U.S. Special Forces, undergoes, said 1st Lt. Fahad Al Ouwish, the Sniper Squad Leader of the 68th platoon. Al Ouwish explained most of his men go through Kuwait Ranger School before joining the Brigade, and then are selected for the 68th.
“Most of the officers and enlisted guys we have try to go to the 68th because it’s like the top notch. But it’s hard to get into because you’ve gotta go through tests,” Al Ouwish said.
The requirements for the Kuwaitis to become Special Forces demonstrates that they view their Special Forces with just as much pride and determination as their American counterparts.
“Every unit has a set of Soldiers that are definitely motivated to do training in infantry tactics,” said 1st Lt. Oliver Gooden of Rock Springs, Wyo., an operations officer with the 2-300 F.A. “These guys were squared away. They’re motivated to be out here and they were happy to come out every day with us to get dirty, nasty, and shoot bullets downrange.
“I’ve trained with over 12 different countries in my career and every infantryman in the world is basically the same: pretty easygoing guys, we like simple things, we don’t mind the dirt, we don’t mind the sweat; these snipers are just the same,” Gooden said loud enough to be heard over the wind.
Of course, the training had some challenges. The language barrier caused some discomfort on both sides; most of the Kuwaitis had varying English abilities yet shyness made them hesitant to speak up at first.
“For us we learned patience—language patience. Everything moves just a little bit slower when two different units speak two different languages,” Gooden said. Yet the barrier made the Americans reassess a teaching strategy that heavily relies on verbal communication.
On the last day of training, American Soldiers challenged the Kuwaitis physically with a ‘stress shoot’. Both forces donned 30-35 pound rucksacks and ran up and down the suddenly distant hill that served as a backdrop for most of their shooting. When they returned, each two man team performed 200 pushups and 200 sit-ups. They then had three minutes to set up their rifle and engage their target.
The exercise didn’t dissuade them and everyone was able to complete the shoot albeit with a few moans and pained laughs. Even sore and tired, Miller had good things to say about the 68th platoon, “I’d absolutely go to war with these guys. They’re great Soldiers…they’re a tier up of everyone else that I’ve worked with.”
Gooden is especially optimistic. “I’m glad that the relationship between the Kuwaiti’s army and the U.S. Army can take a step forward for the future,” Gooden said.