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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Combat marksmanship skills on target at Task-Force Philippines

By Lt. Col. Tracey Saiki, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Twenty-five senior non-commissioned officers, NCOs, and junior enlisted members from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) sharpened their combat marksmanship skills at a firing range at Edwin Andrews Air Base, Philippines last month.

“I wanted to get the section NCOIC’s (non-commissioned officers in charge) together as a group and do some pistol shooting” said, U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major Dave Randall. “I believe Senior NCO’s should always lead by example and never ask their service members to do something they themselves wouldn’t do. We also had many of our Marine Security Element detachment members out there as well to take part in the training.”

An International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC)-type course, designed by Information Operations Specialist, Sgt. First Class Michael C. Wiley, provided the service members a safe and well-controlled combat shooting environment.

“Not everyone was at the same shooting skill-level,” said Wiley, Wash. Army National Guard and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officer from Lakewood, Wash. Our IPSC course had a combination of 18 steel and paper targets, varying in size and distance, with obstacles and barriers,”

“Each shooter fired an M-9 with 32 rounds and went through the course at least three times. Every course completion was timed, scored, and displayed,” he added.

“Several shooters’ first time through took between 80-100 seconds to complete the course,” said Randall. “By the time they had gone through the second or third time, their times dropped to 50-60 seconds. That was a huge improvement and a welcomed morale booster!”

As the day’s activity was winding down, there were enough rounds left for two shooters to go through the course one final time. Wiley asked for any takers. Without any hesitation, two Marines, the most junior in rank, quickly raised their hands.

Enhancing the spirit of competition, Randall decided to have the two Marines compete against each other. Sergeant Jose Castellonlopez from combat camera won the coin toss and elected to have Lance Cpl. Amaranta Khosravi-Sanchez from the MSE detachment shoot first.

“This was my third time through the range course and my time and score kept improving,” said Khosravi-Sanchez from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., and a supply warehouseman at 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. “This time, I zoned out everyone and everything. I didn’t want to be over-confident because I might do worse,” she added.

She took her time, concentrating and focusing on each target and remembered what her instructor at basic training told her, “Make black your best friend and shoot.” And shoot she did, resulting in another improved time and score, and the advantage. Castellonlopez, a pistol and rifle marksmanship coach, came close to her time and score, but he didn’t beat it.

Overall, Khosravi-Sanchez was the top female shooter with the fastest time and the fourth fastest time amongst her peers and senior non-commissioned officers. She earned their respect and admiration for improving her marksmanship skills.

“She is a warrior and I’m extremely proud that she is a member of the JSOTF-P MSE Detachment,” said Randall. “Marines like her are proof that the current generation of Marines are better than ever. She now has ‘bragging rights’ among her peers until the next time we do one of these training events.”

Randall gave her a JSOTF-P coin for her impressive achievement. “When her tour of duty is complete, her unit will get back a Marine who is better trained at this type of shooting skills than when she came here,” he added.

Khosravi-Sanchez, 20-years old, arrived here at JSOTF-P in December 2009. She didn’t know what to expect, but now she sees this deployment as a ‘stepping-stone’ preparing her for future deployments. When asked what does she want to be when she ‘grows up’? “A warden at a prison,” she assertively replied.

At the request of the Philippine Government, JSOTF-P works together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to fight terrorism and deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Mindanao. 
U.S. forces are temporarily deployed to the Philippines in a strictly non-combat role to advise and assist the AFP, share information, and to conduct joint civil military operations. JSOTF-P is made up of Special Operations Forces and support personnel from all four branches of the U.S. military.

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