MARSOC, Part 2: Training SOCOM’S Devil Dogs

25 February 2010, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Staff Sergeant Jason Salvog, an instructor in MSOS’ Advanced Sniper Course, settling in behind an M40A3 sniper rifle. (Robert Bruce)

Salvog:  For the most part our individual weapons worked well.  We did have some springs and triggers break on our M1911.  But for the most part, the M4s, M40A3, MK11s, and M107s worked fine.

SADJ:  Comment on any “wish list” for accessories, etc. that you believe would improve the effectiveness of any of the standard-issue crew-served and individual weapons.

Blackmon:  One item I would personally like to see changed is the gas system on the M4A1.  I believe that a gas piston system like the one found on an AK series rifle or the MK16 SOF Combat Assault Rifle (FN SCAR) would greatly improve the effectiveness of the weapon.

Salvog:  I’ll keep it short as this could take up a whole page easily.  There were a couple of missions that a MK15 (McMillan TAC-50) would have been an asset due to its better accuracy than the M107.  MK13s (Accuracy International L115-A1) would have been an asset due to their increased range and flatter trajectory.

Yohe:  All things in the combat arms industry evolve.  People who deny the need for change should try to fight the Taliban with a muzzle loader.  There are plenty of people around the R & D community who have illustrated the great points of the Horus Vision line of (rifle scope) reticles.  We use scopes equipped with the Horus Vision reticle exclusively here at our course.  This product needs to be taught and utilized by scout snipers across the Marine Corps.

SADJ:  To the extent allowed, describe your most recent foreign deployment in support of the Global War on Terror (“Overseas Contingency Operations“).

Blackmon:  My last deployment was to Central Command Area of Operations, training the forces of partner nations in small arms employment, patrolling and basic land navigation.

Salvog:  Most recently to Afghanistan as part of Marine Special Operations Company I, Team 2.  A couple of firefights, most notably when we got hit during extraction.  We were taking fire from across the valley and I was trying to suppress with a medium machine gun.  After the first couple of bursts by both of us it became too smoky and dusty for me to accurately engage with my night vision device.  I had to have someone on a roof adjust my rounds to put me on target.  This is an instance when a good thermal sight would have come in handy.

31 October 2007, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. A MARSOC operator gives the “OK” hand signal to show that his closed-circuit oxygen re-breather system is good to go in preparation for underwater navigation training at Mile Hammock Bay. Only strong swimmers with no unreasonable fear of the water will be successful with MARSOC’s stringent amphibious training and operational requirements. (MARSOC photo by Lance Corporal Stephen Benson)

Yohe:  I participated in special operations for Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan from September 2008 through March 09.

SADJ:  What lessons did you learn about yourself, your fellow MARSOC operators/instructors, etc., as a result of your deployment experiences?

Blackmon:  One thing that really stood out from the last mission is that not every operator makes a great instructor.  Just because someone has a wealth of information on a particular subject doesn’t mean he knows how to convey it in a platform instructor type environment.  Couple that with having to teach the info in a foreign language or through the use of an interpreter can create a lot of stress.

Salvog:  It would be beneficial for commanders to get a good brief on what the capabilities are for each individual school and training that the team has received.

Yohe:  The human body is capable of extraordinary feats when pushed; whether it’s surviving wounds or in great feats of strength.

SADJ:  What advice do you have for MARSOC operators preparing for their first deployment?

Blackmon:  Know and understand your mission as well as the culture you are going to.  Know the weapons you are taking and those commonly found in your area of operation.  Study the language, customs and courtesies of the area.  Sometimes a handshake and a smile will go a lot further than one well placed shot.

Salvog:  Get as much training as you can, listen to your Element leaders, Operations Chiefs and Team Chiefs.  Make sure you bring gear to cover the full spectrum of what you could possibly be doing.

Yohe:  Don’t underestimate your enemy.  They know the land and spend all day preparing to kill you.  Whenever you’re tired of training and rehearsing, ask yourself if the enemy is resting.

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