The Maneuver Support Group (Designated Marksman Role)

To be truly dangerous to your enemies, train at MVT.

With the establishment of the 1000 yard precision rifle range at the VTC Romney we have started a new section on the forum titled ‘Precision Rifle.‘ There are essentially two axes for this new section, the first being classic long range precision rifle training, and the second being something more along the lines of the ‘Designated Marksman (DM)’ concept. For the purposes of this article we are more closely concerned with the DM concept, but pay attention, because the discussion here is not likely to mirror exactly your established thoughts on this matter.

There are a number of premises that need to be established to give this discussion context. It is specifically being placed within the ‘CUTT Operations’ section of the forum. ‘CUTT’ stands for ‘Citizen Unconventional Tactical Team’ and is the term that we have adopted at MVT to replace ‘Squad.’ Given the number of topic views on articles in the CUTT Operations section, it seems that a thorough review this section would be advised for many, to give this further context. One of the issues that I have discovered when discussing all things related to long range rifle marksmanship, is the number of ingrained ideas and assumptions that many have, which get a little in the way of putting across this concept. Please read this with an open mind.

As a CUTT, you have no support weapons. You are not equipped with the variety of weapons or external support that an infantry squad has. Your weapons are your rifles, and thus it is essential that you are skilled marksmen in the tactical employment of those rifles. In the military, in general marksmanship is fairly poor, and worse yet, many do not bother with good marksmanship during combat. This is a generalization, but many do simply ‘blast away.’  If you have close air support available you can get away with this to a certain extent. Not so the CUTT, which consists of armed citizens with their rifles.

In combat, you cannot move without suppressive fire. This is the fundamental principle of fire and maneuver (or fire & movement). Much that is talked about as ‘suppressive fire’ is not suppressive at all. There is almost an assumption that ‘suppressive’ fire is by definition not accurate, and is an area application. This is a misconception. In order to be able to suppress, applied rifle fire must be accurate. You are attempting to kill the enemy, and fire must be accurate enough to do this. At the least, suppressive fire, to suppress, must be accurate enough to change the behavior of the enemy. What does this mean? It means that rounds must hit to kill or wound, or at least strike or pass close enough so that the enemy is forced to take cover, to put his head down, or move position. This will interrupt his attempts to kill you and your people and allow you to maneuver. This is ‘pinning the enemy down.’ It can only be achieved with accurate fire. You can also only ever assume that you have pinned (neutralized) the enemy, rather than killed him. In the assault, the enemy will always be assumed to be alive when you reach his position. In a break contact, the enemy must be suppressed, or at least his positions covered by overwatch (potential fire), until you have broken contact over or around a terrain feature.

In a CUTT, everyone must be a proficient marksman. This is part of the basic requirement. It can be generalized that the concept in the military of the Designated Marksman is a result of two main things 1) the generally poor standard of marksmanship thus requiring the establishment of skilled individuals who are designated as the marksmen and 2) the increased engagement ranges of the Afghanistan theater, tied in with the lack of shooting skills and the requirement for a heavier round than 5.56 to be effective out to longer ranges. Hence, for example,  the adoption of the M14 (.308) with optic as a Squad Designated Marksman rifle. In  a CUTT, whether you are operating as a two or three team Squad, each of those teams must be able to generate accurate fire, and have the applied marksman skills to do so.

In a CUTT, every rifleman must be able to generate accurate fire out to at least 500 meters. There is no excuse for, or time for, people who can only ‘blast away’ in the general direction of the enemy. Here, we are not talking about long range precision rifle skills. There is no calculation of ‘dope’ or ballistics. The same will apply when we discuss the maneuver support group (MSG) shortly. If you have individuals that have long range precision rifle skills, they will have a place for specific tactical employment beyond the scope of this article – they may well be the same people who make up your MSG, but simply being used in a different role in this case. Out to 500 – 600 meters the rifleman is concerned with application of fire. We are not seeking one round hits as per a precision rifle match. US Army doctrine states that the AR15 is effective as a squad weapon out to 500 meters, as a point target single weapon out to 300 meters. Thus, with good marksmanship skills and operating together, a team (4 rifleman) should be able to accurately suppress positions out to 500 meters. Preferably using a 100 meter zero, the rifleman is concerned with applying his fire by raising his point of aim for increased range, and aiming off depending on any wind that is present. We have 30 rounds in a magazine for a reason, and if fire needs to be ‘walked on’ to be ‘applied’ then so be it – this is exactly what is done with a belt-fed weapon.

Having established that each of the teams that make up your CUTT must have the ability to generate accurate suppressive fire, let us turn our attention to the MSG. It is useful for a formation leader to have a direct means of influencing the battle at his disposal. We are normally talking platoon level here, if we are discussing military units, but it is a given that with a CUTT in a civilian environment we have less numbers. See the articles in  the CUTT section for more on the order of battle for a two or three team CUTT. One of the best direct fire weapons at the small unit level that can be used to influence the battle is the 7.62 (.308) belt fed machine-gun i.e. M240 variants in US Army terms. In the ‘light role’ (bipod mounted) the British Army GPMG (same weapon as the M240) was considered effective out to 800 meters. In the sustained fire role tripod mounted, this weapon was effective out to 1800 meters, or 2400 meters map predicted, when employing a C2 sight.

For visual purposes, here is a clip of a GPMG (Light Role) in combat, reacting to target indications and using a conservative, more accurate, rate of fire i.e. short bursts of 3-5 rounds.

Similarly, in this video, the MSG would be expected to replicate this GPMG support fire, however with less rounds but more accuracy (and optics will help that cause):

If a platoon leader had two a gun teams with M240’s at his disposal he can deploy them immediately into position to influence the battle. This means positioning them to fire on the enemy in order to support the movement of his maneuver units i.e. squads. Given that we do not have belt-fed weapons, we can replace this capability with suitable rifles. Thus, we will be trading the high volume but diminished accuracy of the M240 with the lower volume and greater accuracy of .308 rifles in the MSG role. The beauty of the 7.62 round is not only hitting power and accuracy at range, but the increased destruction of cover that it creates. This will have an increased suppressive capability on the enemy, not only psychologically in terms of any cover being shot to pieces, but also if you can kill him behind that cover, such as trees and masonry. The concept of the MSG is thus to have two individuals making up a team, equipped with AR308 semi-automatic rifles and suitable optics to engage the enemy with accurate fire out to 800 meters. The idea is that both individuals will engage target(s) to bolster the fire of any of the maneuver teams that may be in the support by fire role at this time. Recall the assault cycle? If you have three maneuver elements, then you can rotate them through the cycle: assault – support by fire – reserve. Thus, the MSG would be considered in addition to this cycle, not as part of it, and would be deployed to specific support by fire roles as the situation dictated. There is also no reason why you need to confine this MSG to one buddy pair. You could also add a team leader to the mix who would be responsible to direct via target indications and fire control orders, and shift fire of these two MSG riflemen, as necessary.

Can you do this role with 5.56? Yes you can, but not as effectively, due to the lesser effect of 5.56 on materiel compared to the 7.62 round. You have to be careful with the CUTT concept, and not biting off more than you can chew. Depending on the terrain / visibility you are operating in, a 3 team CUTT can directly influence a bubble of perhaps up to 300 meters. Consider a squad attack and how far you are going to move and split your team to go to a flank – ideally not more than 300 meters. This means that the dispersed teams of the CUTT, if satellite patrolling, can mutually support each other within that 300 meter bubble. We can still influence by fire out to 500 – 600 meters with our 5.56 rifles. And there is absolutely no reason to go away from 5.56 for your maneuver teams – in fact the AR15/M4 is ideally suited for the role of the general rifleman (and 16″ barrels are an ideal compromise for this role). However, with the addition of the 308 equipped MSG, we can influence with heavier accurate fire from 50 to 800 meters. This includes suppression of enemy positions and disrupting enemy runners or reinforcements.

.308 rounds are heavier to carry than 5.56, and given that we are using the MSG in a support fire role, they need to have sufficient ammunition to achieve this. We do still prefer accuracy over volume, and we are not going to be firing as much as if we had belt fed weapons, but we will still consume plenty of ammunition suppressing an enemy position as our teams maneuver. Given the MVT Lite Fight concept, the MSG may be more heavily laden with ammunition than the maneuver teams with their 556. Previous comment on gear posts about clever use of logistics and vehicles for casualty evacuation and ammunition resupply remain extant. The fall out from this however, is that your MSG guys must be experienced self-starters, trusted and robust. They are going to have to be trusted to move to a position, locate and engage the enemy, while keeping an eye on the movement of their own maneuver teams and shifting fire as necessary. They may have to rapidly move across the battlefield and into and out of overwatch positions, while carrying AR308 rifles and being laden with a certain weight of ammunition. This is not for the fainthearted.

Whenever PT comes to the fore, there is a certain school of resistance often due to the age of many readers. And frankly, often due to a lack of physical training. I cannot sugar coat combat for you. You have to be robust and as physically fit as you can be. There are no second chances and no excuses. Often, when it comes to precision rifle discussions, designated marksman etc, many are looking for a comfy ride for a number of reasons – age, unfitness, injury etc. I cannot give you that. If you are out operating as a CUTT you need to be an infantryman. If for whatever reason you are beyond that, then combat is not your role. You should be at the home base in a support / auxiliary role, which is absolutely vital. If you happen to be the old guy who cannot get out there anymore, but is also a highly skilled precision rifleman, then you have a role if ‘stood to’ at the retreat in order to defend from a threat. There is no point throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to tactical training, simply because you may feel you are too old for it. This is the whole point of team. Where are your young people? The CUTT concept cannot happen without a trained team. That is the bottom line.

Thus, the ideal of the MSG is to provide an asset to the CUTT Leader which he can use to directly influence the battle. It will support by fire the actions of the maneuver teams, whether in the assault, break contact, raid or ambush. The adoption of AR308 rifles for this role will allow sustained accurate destructive fire to be placed onto the enemy. This will provide a physical and psychological effect greater than that of 5.56. With suitable optics, fire can be placed between 50 – 800 meters. The use of riflemen in this role does not cross the line into the world of long range precision rifle, although if these skills are present it would help. It simply requires a competent rifleman who is able to apply fire out to these ranges.

For questions and discussion: MVT Forum.