by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs
7/21/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Standing
6 feet 5 inches tall, Tech. Sgt. Jerimiah Brock looks well-suited for a
career as a power forward in the NBA. But instead of shooting free
throws, the Lake Tahoe, Calif., native shoots bullseyes from behind the
scope of an M24 Sniper Weapon System rifle.
Brock said his parents didn't like guns and wouldn't allow him to have
one. At 16 years old, he managed to get his hands on a BB gun. At 17,
his grandfather - who sympathized with the teenager - got a Remington
Model 522 Viper .22-caliber rifle for the budding marksman as a
Brock was hooked.
Living in a small settlement of five homes, the 673d SFS flight sergeant
said he could wander into national forest land, line up a few targets,
and plink away.
Fast forward to July 11, and Brock has progressed beyond plinking,
beyond the limited ranges and hushed zings of his rimfire days. He was
lining up man-shaped targets between 100 and 500 meters for Advanced
Designated Marksman qualification at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's
Statler Range with the 673d Security Forces Squadron.
Civilian Officer Leonard Reloza, Combat Arms instructor, said the
routine training ensures 673d SFS Airmen retain proficiency on the M24
SWS. He rattled off a description of the rifle, sounding like a
1950s-era salesman describing the whiz-bang features of the latest
"The M24 is the current standard-issue sniper rifle for the United
States Air Force," the Anchorage native said. "It's a bolt-action
Remington 700 action using an H-S Precision Kevlar and fiberglass
composite stock with an aluminum bedding block and a Remington 40X
trigger topped with a Leupold 10x scope."
The Remington 700 action is the heart of the rifle, allowing the shooter
to quickly cycle through ammunition while retaining the accuracy of a
bolt-action rifle. The composite stock and bedding block ensure a tight
and consistent fit with the action. According to the manufacturer's
website, the match-grade trigger allows for adjustments between 3.5 and 5
pounds of trigger pull, according to the needs of the sharpshooter.
Far from the lone wolf portrayed at the cineplex, Brock said he is
reliant on his spotter, Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Link, to hit his mark
before the two switch places for training.
"The spotter is the best shooter," Brock explained. "They are
responsible for calling out distances. They will do all of the formulas
for you while you're behind the sight, because you have fatigue behind
anything magnifying. If you're high or low, they will tell you how far
you are off by clicks [of sight adjustment]. You adjust and take a
second shot if needed."
Brock and Link worked like interconnecting cogs of a German watch during
training, communicating in short staccato commands in order to get
steel on target.
Peering through his spotting scope, Link used the reticle pattern to
estimate distance based upon the assumed size of the target's torso.
"On target at four," said Link, a native of West Branch, Mich., indicating a range of 400 meters. "Send it when ready."
The order cleared Brock to shoot once he gained a good firing solution.
He gingerly wrapped his fingers around a dial at the top of the sight.
Click. Click. The sight was set for 400 meters.
The sharpshooter breathed in and firmly exhaled, eliminating any shake
induced from his rhythmic breathing. The scope crosshairs hovered over
the target. Brock's finger cradled the curve of the trigger and slowly
squeezed, infinitesimally adding pressure until the trigger group
activated the rifle's firing pin. Bang.
"Beautiful," Link breathed in a hushed tone, scrutinizing the target through the spotting scope. "Good hit ... center of mass."
In contrast to Brock, Reloza's childhood was replete with firearms and
marksmanship. The instructor said he competed in riflery at Anchorage's
Bartlett High School where he also enrolled in Army Junior ROTC. These
experiences gave him a penchant for precision weapons fire and a yen for
Reloza joined the Army as an infantryman, his first assignment was at
Fort Campbell, Ky., with the 101st Airborne Division. He made rank and
eventually became a sniper team leader before reassignment to then-Fort
Richardson with the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.
After leaving the Army, Reloza joined the Air National Guard and is a
technical sergeant in the 176th Security Forces Squadron as a Combat
Arms instructor. His Guard status mirrors his civilian duties, and he
helps 673d SFS Airmen share his pursuit of eliminating the small things
that preclude precision fire. Things like ammunition.
M118 7.62-mm Special Ball long-range ammunition is designed specifically
for precision rifles used by the Department of Defense. Despite being
manufactured to tight tolerances, M118 ammunition is still subject to
small variances. Reloza said it is important to register a lot of
ammunition - manufactured in a batch at the same time - to ensure
consistent results. This information and a host of other parameters, are
recorded as "data on previous engagement" in a notebook.
DOPE also includes how the rifle behaves under different atmospheric conditions.
Because the climate is so different in places like Afghanistan, and
because Airmen likely won't deploy with their home lot of ammunition,
Reloza said they will be assigned a deployed lot and will consequently
build a new DOPE log.
Because these seemingly small factors quickly add up in the accuracy
equation, Brock said it is important for advanced marksmen to become
familiar with a newly assigned weapon and to maintain accurate data on
how the weapon behaves in varying conditions.
"Each weapon system is different," Brock said. "They are each within a
half minute of angle (1/2-inch at 100 meters) accuracy, however they are
shooter- and ammo-dependent."
Some of the sharpshooters' techniques can seem like black magic. Brock
said a well-trained marksman can use a strong wind to curve a bullet to
hit a target behind cover. At longer ranges with higher-caliber weapons
such as the .50-caliber M107 Long Range Sniper Rifle, shooters have to
account for the bullet being subject to the Coriolis effect.
"When you get into long-distance shooting, you actually have to factor
the rotation of the earth, because the target won't be at the same
location once the bullet gets there," Brock said.
During the course of the day, 673d SFS Airmen engaged targets at known
and unknown ranges in prone, kneeling and over-barricade positions in
order to keep qualification on the M24 SWS.
For Brock and Reloza - two sharpshooters who couldn't have had more
different backgrounds with firearms - it was another day on the beat.
They both picked up their first rifles at vastly different ages, but
time, experience and training ensures both are always ready to find