To Be a Military Sniper

( 7 )

Overview

Aside from nerves of steel, pinpoint precise targeting skills, and uncanny adaptability, what does it take to be a military sniper? This book lays out the details of training and traits of character that make for success in one of the most challenging and mysterious jobs the military has to offer.

Author Gregory Mast, who has commanded both a rifle and a heavy machine-gun platoon, offers a clear account of what its like to be a sniper, required to stay in one position for days ...

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To Be a Military Sniper

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Overview

Aside from nerves of steel, pinpoint precise targeting skills, and uncanny adaptability, what does it take to be a military sniper? This book lays out the details of training and traits of character that make for success in one of the most challenging and mysterious jobs the military has to offer.

Author Gregory Mast, who has commanded both a rifle and a heavy machine-gun platoon, offers a clear account of what its like to be a sniper, required to stay in one position for days at a time, calling upon extensive training in camouflage and concealment, stalking and observation, precision marksmanship in a variety of operational conditions, and all those skills that, along with aptitude, turn a trainee into the deadliest of marksman.

The book includes fully illustrated descriptions of sniper training as forward air controllers (FACs) to direct military air strikes, forward observation officers (FOOs) in artillery target indication, and as mortar fire controllers (MFCs).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760330029
  • Publisher: Zenith Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2007
  • Series: To Be A Series
  • Edition description: First
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 629,683
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Mast enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1978 and was commissioned in 1983. Following his active military service he worked in the defense industry on classified projects, as a web communications specialist at design studios, as a freelance graphic designer, and has owned a traditional Irish pub. He and his wife live in San Jose, California.

Hans Halberstadt studied documentary film in college and later took up writing, authoring or co-authoring more than fifty books. Most of his books have been on military subjects, especially U.S. special operations forces, armor, and artillery. He has also written extensively about farming and railroads. Halberstadt served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam. He and his wife, April, live in San Jose, California.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments

Preface             The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Shooter

Introduction      Meet the Snipers

Chapter 1         A Brief History of Sniping

Chapter 2         Checking In

Chapter 3         Sniper Training: Week One

Chapter 4         Making the Long Shot: Ballistics and the Fundamentals of Marksmanship

Chapter 5         Sniper Training: Week Two

Chapter 6         Target Detection and Selection

Chapter 7         Sniper Training: Week Three

Chapter 8         On the Run: Survival, Tracking, and Counter Tracking

Chapter 9         Sniper Training: Week Four and Week Five

Chapter 10       Real-World Sniper Operations

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Preface

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Shooter

Two hours after dawn and the day is already getting hot. The mirage shimmers and moves with the wind as you watch a teenager with an AK-47 through your scope. You estimated his range at 480 meters, based on the length of his rifle. He is guarding the rural compound with resigned boredom, sitting on the ground with his back resting against the mud wall in a bit of shade near the gate. He's not much younger than you, maybe your brother's age you guess, and what he doesn't know is that today is his lucky day because he is not your target.

You would be a bit bored too if you weren't so deep in Indian Country with just your observer and a radio for backup. There should be at least four on this mission but your battalion has too many missions and too few shooters. So you and your observer are extra careful to not draw unwanted attention to your position, where you've been since late yesterday. You infiltrated the target area as dusk was settling, close enough to get a good shot but far enough away in case you need to call in artillery or close air support on the target.

Intel said that there would be about a squad in the compound and so far you've counted fourteen fighters. You and your observer take turns watching the compound, hoping that they are careless about patrolling. You try to catch a few minutes of sleep here and there, but your buddy kicks you awake when you start snoring and the dream gets good. He always does that and you start to concoct another prank you will play on him back inside the wire. You know him as well as you've ever known anybody and the two of you literally trust one another with yourlives.

A reliable source told Intel that a local militia leader would be visiting the compound sometime today and your mission is to promote him to Martyr First Class if he shows up. You and your buddy joke about what it takes to be considered "reliable," actual information or just a blood pressure and body temperature that approaches normal. You hope that they are right this time because you've got a good position and what appears to be a safe, covered route to the extraction point. On the other hand, you've been on many other missions that were a bust because the reliable source wasn't reliable.

Several hours later you notice that a table is being set up in the shade of the courtyard. From your hillside position, you can look down into most of the walled compound and it would be a stroke of luck if this supposed meeting took place outside. Your first plan was to shoot as the target left his vehicle and walked to the building. You are keeping track of the environmental conditions that will affect your firing solution, such as the wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity. You and your observer have both estimated the ranges in the compound and have taken into account the downward angle that you will be firing from. You are keeping track of the temperature of your ammunition and if you were Tom Berenger you would be filing down your fingertip. You and your buddy like to make fun of cheesy sniper movies and will ask each other the rhetorical question, "What would Tom do?" to get a laugh.

Another couple of hours go by and your observer spots a pair of old Mercedes driving up to the compound. The cars stop at the gate and six armed men get out. Bingo, your target is there. They are met by the goobers that you've been watching all day and you wonder if the militia leader knows how lazy these guys are. After a few hugs and kisses they go inside and take seats at the table in the courtyard.

Damn, if they had shown up an hour earlier the light would have been perfect. Your observer is estimating the wind as you slowly chamber a round into your rifle. You dial in the windage and distance into your scope and take aim. He's too far away to risk a head shot so you will send the bullet crashing through his chest instead. It won't be an instant kill but it will certainly wreck his day. As you place the cross hair reticle on the target, you adjust your point of aim based on your knowledge of how this rifle shoots when the barrel is cold.

"Spotter ready" your observer tells you, letting you know that he has the target acquired in his spotting scope. You take a few deep breaths to calm down and tell him, "Shooter ready." When he says "Send it!" you gently squeeze the trigger and dispatch a 175 downrange. You lose sight of your target as the rifle recoils, giving your shoulder a familiar shove. Your observer watches the bullet's "trace," the projectile's supersonic atmospheric wake that marks its path to the target. After the rifle recoils, you slowly manipulate the bolt and chamber another round in case you need to re-engage the target.

It won't be necessary this time. Your observer watched the round impact into the target's chest and could see his brief expression of surprise before he fell over backward in his chair. The report of the rifle arrives a split second after the bullet and in the confusion the fighters shoot wildly into the hills, some of their fire directed vaguely toward your hidden position. You are watching to see if they are going to start searching for you or just hole up inside the compound, getting under cover to avoid more casualties. While you are watching and packing your gear for a swift exit, your observer is on the radio giving a mission update and requesting an extraction. He will also prep a fire mission if it looks like you are going to be chased.

It will be totally dark in a few hours but you decide to leave now, while the home team is still confused. You and your observer quickly put distance between you and the compound, stopping occasionally to see if you are being followed. Four hours later you are inside a Blackhawk, hoping the pilot is really good with night-vision goggles and that he knows where all the power lines are in this area. Once you are back on friendly turf, you will be debriefed on the mission before you can clean up and get chow. After that, you catch a bit of sleep and it all starts over the next day. Another day, another mission.

This scenario is a composite of many different missions, but it illustrates some of the skills and mindset that a military sniper must have in order to survive on the modern battlefield. This book intends to offer an introduction to what it takes to become a sniper in today's armed forces, a specialty known for its economical motto of "One Shot, One Kill." It is not a story for the squeamish because the brutal reality of the sniper's trade is the delivery of death, one shot at a time. It is a story that even many military professionals know little about, and it is a story where the reality is much more interesting than the fantasy. The first step is to meet those who have made the grade and work as snipers.
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Introduction

Meet the Snipers

Few other military specialties are as shrouded in mythology and misinformation as are snipers. The dominant popular image of the military sniper is that of a solitary hunter, stalking his prey with stealth and patience, shooting from such a long distance that the bullet arrives at the target long before the report of the shot. One rifle, one target, one shot, one kill. Often these tales are embellished with improbable details of near supernatural abilities and are fueled by the ballistically impossible cinematic exploits of Hollywood. While the basis of this image is not necessarily incorrect, that of a superbly trained marksmen delivering precision fire on high-value targets, the reality of modern warfare and conflict creates a story far more complex and interesting than any cheesy action movie.

When properly employed, the sniper is the smartest weapon on a battlefield dominated by "smart" weapons. For nearly two hundred years the sniper has been hated and revered, feared and admired, demonized and idealized, opinions dictated by one's relative position to the sniper's rifle. The modern sniper is carefully selected, rigorously trained, and specially equipped for his deadly tasks; and his leaders are educated on how to use this highly specialized asset. This process has many "moving parts" and, when done correctly, produces results far out of proportion to the size of the effort. The story of how an ordinary trigger puller becomes a sniper is a fascinating one; and it's a story that is seldom told.

The first stage in this process is the selection of candidates for sniper training. The simple fact is that many soldiers and marines are not suitablecandidates for this line of work. Physical training (PT) scores and range qualifications alone do not a sniper make, although physical endurance and marksmanship skills are absolutely necessary. The basic candidate must possess above average intelligence, emotional maturity, and a stable personality. Good judgment is a critical survival skill for snipers, who need to know when to shoot and when to scoot. Psychopaths and nutcases need not apply and are screened out by mandatory psychological exams. The candidate should also be a superior "field" soldier, knowledgeable in a wide range of military skills outside his own MOS.

The second stage is initial formal training, above and beyond preparatory training received at the unit level. This school can last anywhere from three to ten weeks, depending on the service component. During this training, the soldier or marine receives instruction in the basic skills of a modern sniper, traditional methodology that is constantly adapting to the changing battlegrounds of the twenty-first century. The course of instruction is rigorous and intense, with high attrition rates. The primary purpose of these schools is to train new snipers, the secondary purpose is to screen out unsuitable candidates.

The third stage of this process begins when the new sniper leaves school and ends when he is no longer a sniper. This is the real-world phase, where the sniper must maintain and perfect basic skills and constantly learn new tricks. Just as a shark must keep swimming to avoid drowning, so must a sniper train constantly for a battlefield where success and survival are often the same thing. Sometimes the schoolhouse solution works, sometimes it doesn't, but it is the experienced sniper who knows the difference. The sniper must also train those responsible for his employment, so that the employers understand the true operational capabilities and limitations of this highly specialized tool.

The modern sniper may be a direct descendent of sharpshooters past but he is as technologically removed from his ancestors as the B2 bomber is from the Wright brother's first biplane. High technology and advances in the ballistic sciences have given the sniper capabilities that were the stuff of science fiction less than thirty years ago. Still, it is the man behind the tool that makes the difference, not the tool. Like snipers in previous wars, the modern sniper lives and dies by his wits and skills, constantly searching for a better optics/bullet/rifle combination that will allow him to shoot farther, quicker, and more accurately than his opponent. In this, the sniper strives to live out the singular motto of those who went before him: One shot, one kill.

The term sniper conjures many images, most of them incorrect because the term is widely misused. A rifleman who makes a lucky long-distance shot is not a sniper nor is a deranged solitary gunman shooting from a rooftop. For the purpose of this book, a sniper is a highly trained, specially equipped and tasked service member who has a primary mission of delivering precision rifle fire on selected, high-value targets and a secondary mission of gathering battlefield information through observation and reporting. Every branch of the U.S. military employs snipers, both in conventional warfare and special operations roles. The overwhelming majority of those trained as snipers are in the army and Marine Corps but the air force and navy also have snipers in their special operations forces.

There are probably three to four thousand men assigned to sniper duties at any given time in the U.S. Armed Forces, a small number in the big scheme of things. Each service treats the craft differently, with the Marine Corps and army representing two basic approaches to career management for snipers. Snipers in the Marine Corps are assigned a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), 8541, which makes sniping their primary duty. As a result, snipers in the Marine Corps have a defined career path. The U.S. Army assigns trained snipers an additional skill identifier (ASI) of B4, which is attached to their MOS. This approach may allow the army more flexibility in assigning soldiers but the "trade off" seems to be a diminished institutional value placed on sniping as a unique specialty.

The total number of new snipers trained each year is not widely discussed but is estimated to range from four to six hundred. Initial sniper training is expensive, resource intensive, and time consuming, characteristics that are always unpopular with military bureaucracies, even more so during a time of war. The U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia, trains the largest number of these new snipers, turning out nearly twice as many new shooters per year than the Marine Corps does. For that reason, the army sniper school was used as the example of a sniper training program for this book.

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Customer Reviews

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( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2012

    Could Have Been Written Better

    The author being in the military really should have worked with a professional author to create this. It is disjointed and poorly organized, Mast jumps to another subject repeatedly. Some pages have a photo and two lines of text. All in all you learn about snipers and the training involved. Reading it makes you wish it was pulled off a lot better.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

    Not very clean

    Like the content , but for the money it should be much cleaner. Supprised B&N charged what they do.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2013

    Good book

    This could not have been writen any better because as a former snipper for the marines these are just the basics of what you are really going to do. Don't get your hopes up and that this is all the information you will need because it's just the beginning of it. So don't be talking smack about this book because it was explained perfectly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2012

    Best book i've read!

    Good book!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2008

    Great book!!!

    Filled with nice pictures and great info. on the sniper's training course.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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