FORT DRUM, New York – Across the New York Army National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Soldiers are closing the gap between the reach of the basic Soldier and the highly trained sniper with the Army’s Squad Designated Marksman Rifle.
During two days of new equipment training, 30 of the brigade’s Soldiers from New York and Massachusetts learned to operate and maintain the new rifle and gained combat skills they’ll bring home to their units.
Known by its Army nomenclature as the M110 A1, the SDMR is a 7.62 mm rifle manufactured by Heckler & Koch Defense Inc. It comes equipped with a Sig Sauer Tango6 optic and a special buttstock and suppressor.
“It feels like this weapon and me belong together,” said Cpl. Luis Alvarez, an infantryman assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment.
Alvarez is one of the first two Soldiers in his company to get his hands on the new weapon. He’s been interested in firearms since he was 15 and learned to shoot pistols and rifles with his family.
Alvarez and the other students were taught each of the SDMR’s features and how to disassemble, reassemble and fire the weapon. They also learned new skills, like understanding the impact of wind and elevation on firing over longer ranges.
Then the Soldiers spent a day on the sniper range at Fort Drum, putting those skills into practice against paper and steel targets.
The weapon has been fielded in the active-duty Army for a couple of years but has only made its way to a few of the 54 state and territory National Guard commands.
“[The SDMR] was developed to fill the gap between the rifleman and a sniper,” explained David Beesley, a training specialist with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Armaments Command, and lead instructor for the new equipment training.
“The rifleman shoots out to 300 meters effectively. We needed something to get between that three and 600-meter gap so that we don’t necessarily have to rely on a sniper for those long shots.”
On a good day, Beesley said a Soldier equipped with the SDMR can shoot as far as 800 meters.
For Sgt. Johnathan Harris, a cavalry scout assigned to Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment, who normally fires the M4 carbine or M2 machine gun, the SDMR comes with other advantages, too.
“We don’t have to carry as much equipment for surveillance because we have a six-time zoom on our rifle. And it has night vision, too,” he said.
Both Alvarez and Harris intend to bring the lessons they learned back to their units. And Harris doesn’t think it will be a hard skill to sell.
After all, he said, “Who doesn’t want to hit targets from further?”