Marine Sniper Credited with Longest Confirmed Kill in Iraq
AR RAMADI, Iraq -- Seen through a twenty-power spot scope, terrorists scrambled to deliver another mortar round into the tube. Across the Euphrates River from a concealed rooftop, the Marine sniper breathed gently and then squeezed a few pounds of pressure to the delicate trigger of the M40A3 sniper rifle in his grasp.
The rifle's crack froze the booming Fallujah battle like a photograph. As he moved the bolt back to load another round of 7.62mm ammunition, the sniper's spotter confirmed the terrorist went down from the shot mere seconds before the next crack of the rifle dropped another.
It wasn't the sniper's first kill in Iraq, but it was one for the history books.
On Nov. 11, 2004, while coalition forces fought to wrest control of Fallujah from a terrorist insurgency, Marine scout snipers with Company B, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, applied their basic infantry skills and took them to a higher level.
"From the information we have, our chief scout sniper has the longest confirmed kill in Iraq so far," said Capt. Shayne McGinty, weapons platoon commander for "Bravo" Co. "In Fallujah there were some bad guys firing mortars at us and he took them out from more than 1,000 yards."
During the battle for the war-torn city, 1/23 Marine scout snipers demonstrated with patience, fearless initiative and wits that well-trained Marines could be some of the deadliest weapons in the world.
"You really don't have a threat here until it presents itself," said Sgt. Herbert B. Hancock, chief scout sniper, 1/23, and a 35-year-old police officer from Bryan, Texas, whose specialized training and skill helped save the lives of his fellow Marines during the battle. "In Fallujah we really didn't have that problem because it seemed like everybody was shooting at us. If they fired at us we just dropped them."
Stepping off on day one of the offensive from the northern edge of the Fallujah peninsula, the Marine Reserves of 1/23, with their scout snipers, moved to secure a little island, but intense enemy fire near the bridgeheads limited their advance. Insurgents littered the city, filtering in behind their positions with indirect mortar and sniper fire.
"The insurgents started figuring out what was going on and started hitting us from behind, hitting our supply lines," said Hancock in his syrupy Texas drawl. "Originally we set up near a bridge and the next day we got a call on our radio that our company command post was receiving sniper fire. We worked our way back down the peninsula trying to find the sniper, but on the way down we encountered machinegun fire and what sounded like grenade launchers or mortars from across the river."
With a fire team of grunts pinned down nearby, Hancock and his spotter, Cpl. Geoffrey L. Flowers, a May 2004 graduate of Scout Sniper School, helped them out by locating the source of the enemy fire.
"After locating the gun position we called in indirect fire to immediate suppress that position and reduced it enough so we could also punch forward and get into a house," explained Hancock. "We got in the house and started to observe the area from which the insurgents were firing at us. They hit us good for about twenty minutes and were really hammering us. Our indirect fire (landed on) them and must have been effective because they didn't shoot anymore after that."
Continuing south down the peninsula to link up with the Bravo Co. command post, Hancock and Flowers next set up on a big building, taking a couple shots across the river at some suspected enemy spotters in vehicles.
"The insurgents in the vehicles were spotting for the mortar rounds coming from across the river so we were trying to locate their positions to reduce them as well as engage the vehicles," said Hancock. "There were certain vehicles in areas where the mortars would hit. They would show up and then stop
and then the mortars would start hitting us
Photo by Cpl. Paul W. Leicht
Sgt. Herbert B. Hancock, chief scout sniper, sniper platoon, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, is credited with the longest confirmed kill in Iraq, hitting enemy terrorists from 1,050 yards in Fallujah Nov. 11, 2004. Hancock, a 35-year-old activated Reserve and police officer from Bryan, Texas, has been a Marine Corps sniper since 1992.
and then the vehicles would leave so we figured out that they were spotters. We took out seven of those guys in one day."
Later, back at the company command post, enemy mortar rounds once again began to impact.
"There were several incoming rockets and mortars to our compound that day and there was no way the enemy could have seen it directly, so they probably had some spotters out there," said 22-year-old Flowers who is a college student from Pearland, Texas.
" Our (company commander) told us to go find where the mortars were coming from and take them out so we went back out," remembered Hancock. "We moved south some more and linked up with the rear elements of our first platoon. Then we got up on a building and scanned across the river. We looked out of the spot scope and saw about three to five insurgents manning a 120mm mortar tube. We got the coordinates for their position and set up a fire mission. We decided that when the rounds came in that I would engage them with the sniper rifle. We got the splash and there were two standing up looking right at us. One had a black (outfit) on. I shot and he dropped. Right in front of him another got up on his knees looking to try and find out where we were so I dropped him too. After that our mortars just hammered the position, so we moved around in on them."
The subsequent fire for effect landed right on the insurgent mortar position.
"We adjusted right about fifty yards where there were two other insurgents in a small house on the other side of the position," said Flowers. "There was some brush between them and the next nearest building about 400 yards south of where they were at and we were about 1,000 yards from them so I guess they thought we could not spot them. Some grunts were nearby with binoculars but they could not see them, plus they are not trained in detailed observation the way we are. We know what to look for such as target indicators and things that are not easy to see."
Hancock and Flowers then scanned several areas that they expected fire from, but the enemy mortars had silenced.
"After we had called in indirect fire and after all the adjustments from our mortars, I got the final 8-digit grid coordinates for the enemy mortar position, looked at our own position using GPS and figured out the distance to the targets we dropped to be 1,050 yards," said Flowers with a grin. "This time we were killing terrorism from more than 1,000 yards."
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