The Killing School: Inside the World's Deadliest Sniper Program

The Killing School: Inside the World's Deadliest Sniper Program

The Killing School: Inside the World's Deadliest Sniper Program

The Killing School: Inside the World's Deadliest Sniper Program


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The Killing School brings readers inside the U.S. Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) Scout/Sniper Course—the grueling three-month training program that produces the world’s deadliest snipers.

As a SEAL sniper and combat veteran, Webb was tapped to revamp the U.S. Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) Scout/Sniper School, incorporating the latest advances in technology and ballistics software to create an entirely new course that continues to test the skills and even the best warriors. In this revealing new book, Webb takes readers through every aspect of this training, describing how Spec Ops snipers are taught each dimension of their art. Trainees learn to utilize every edge possible to make their shot—from studying crosswinds, barometric pressure, latitude, and even the rotation of the Earth to becoming ballistic experts. But marksmanship is only one aspect of the training. Each SEAL's endurance, stealth and mental and physical stamina are tested and pushed to the breaking point.

Webb also shows how this training plays out in combat, using real-life exploits of the world's top snipers, including Jason Delgado, who led a Marine platoon in the Battle of Husaybah and made some of the most remarkable kill shots in the Iraq War; Nicholas Irving, the U.S. Army Ranger credited with thirty-three kills in a single three-month tour in Afghanistan; and Rob Furlong, who during Operation Anaconda delivered the then-longest kill shot in history.

During Webb's sniper school tenure, the course graduated some of the deadliest and most skilled snipers of this generation, including Marcus Luttrell (Lone Survivor), Adam Brown (Fearless), and Chris Kyle (American Sniper). From recon and stalk, to complex last minute adjustments, and finally the moment of taking the shot, The Killing School demonstrates how today's sniper is trained to function as an entire military operation rolled into a single individual—an army of one.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250181794
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 512,301
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

About The Author
BRANDON WEBB is the New York Times bestselling author of The Red Circle. A former U.S. Navy SEAL, he has received numerous distinguished service awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation. As the founder of Hurricane Group, Inc., he runs the largest military content network on the internet. Brandon lives in New York and Puerto Rico.

JOHN DAVID MANN is an award-winning author whose titles include the New York Times bestseller The Red Circle and the international bestseller The Go-Giver.

Read an Excerpt



There is another type of warfare — new in its intensity, ancient in its origin — war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat, by infiltration instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him.

— President John F. Kennedy

A few miles off the coast of Somalia Monday, February 27, 1995, close to midnight

I've never drowned to death, but I've come close. I'm not saying we were exactly waterboarded during the course of our training, but let's put it this way: I'm familiar with how it feels to be surrounded, invaded, swallowed by water, that intimate sense of skin- close death. I'd already known it for years. At the age of thirteen, I would dive deep down in the middle of the night, into the inky green blackness, to wrestle free a tangled anchor attached to the boat where I worked. There's something primal about being taken over by water, something deeply peaceful even as it terrifies you. "Ashes to ashes," goes the familiar funeral patter, "dust to dust ..." — but it's not really like that. Dust isn't where we started. We came from water, and the water is always ready to claim us back.

Right now Alex Morrison was mulling over thoughts about death and water, as he felt their craft heave and plunge in the midnight African sea swell.

Alex had been a SEAL since 1989, graduating from the Naval Special Warfare sniper program in mid-'94, less than a year earlier. The son of a marine officer, he had joined the teams out of an unquenchable thirst for adventure. He had the feeling he was about to get some.

He looked around, craning his eyes in the dark.

There were about forty of them, crammed onto their bench seats in the dark, packed like heavily armed sardines into a corrugated steel MILVAN shipping container fastened to the deck of an amphibious hovercraft, speeding toward the Somali coast, a few miles still to go. They couldn't see out, not that there was much to see at midnight on the ocean; still, if they were out on deck at least they would have been able to see the stars and get a sense of horizon. If something happened, they would have been able to do something.

No dice. All they could do was think about the mission in front of them.

"Operation Restore Hope," that's what they'd called it back in 1992 when it started. An international effort to bring order and stability to war-torn, famine-ravaged Somalia. All you had to do was look at the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993 to know how that plan was turning out.

More like Operation Hopeless, thought Alex.

And now that they'd pulled the plug, someone had to go in and get the last few thousand U.N. personnel who were still there, housed in complexes in and around the coastal airport. They couldn't be airlifted out — too many crazy, khat-chewing Somali militia running around with surface-to-air missiles. They couldn't leave via commercial shipping, either: too many mortars, RPGs, and so on. It had to be a military operation, and a delicate one at that. Which was why Alex and his platoon were there.

The operation employed a total of about fourteen thousand personnel, though only a fraction of those were being used in the actual landing force. Most would remain onboard the Coalition fleet of two dozen ships, four miles off the coast, to receive the evacuees and support the mission. It would be the largest amphibious withdrawal under hostile conditions since we'd pulled out of North Korea in 1950.

About half the landing forces would put in at Mogadishu's seaport, just north of the airport, in large landing craft. Hundreds more would roll in on amphibious assault vehicles, essentially large waterproofed tanks. Some were flying in on helos. Not Alex. He and the other sardines were hovercrafting straight onto the beach by the airport runway, where he and their platoon's other sniper would immediately fan out with their support teams and establish overwatch for the duration of the mission. Which should go smoothly — not a shot fired. After all, Mohamed Aidid and the other Somali warlords had been talked with, and had agreed to let the U.N. forces go peacefully. But of course, they had added, they couldn't be responsible for the actions of militias or splinter groups, now could they?

To put it in plain English: once the evacuation began, all bets were off.

Somewhere over eastern Afghanistan Monday, March 4, 2002, before dawn

Rob Furlong crouched in the freezing cold transport helo, feeling the Chinook's metal hull vibrating against his back. Random thoughts slipped through his head. The smell of jet fuel and rush of frigid air acted like smelling salts, jarring his brain. As if he needed any added stimulation to stay alert. Hydraulic fluid wept down the interior walls of the bird here and there, creating the appearance of a dank cave. Sitting in their retractable pipe-and-webbing red nylon seats, two rows of fighters faced each other across the metal floor. The insistent, high-pitched whine of the Chinook's turbines and whump whump whump of its twin rotors made conversation close to impossible, leaving the men largely alone in their thoughts.

Sitting up toward the front of the chopper, near the door gunner, Rob looked to his left, down the row of assorted fighters on his side of the helo, and occupied his mind with trying to work out exactly which units they each belonged to — Delta, 101st Airborne, Tenth Mountain Division? There were about thirty of them, plus an all-terrain four-wheeler loaded by the rear ramp. Seven other Chinooks were flying in the same formation with his, with a total of more than two hundred troops, part of the nearly two thousand being thrown into this operation, the first major offensive of the still new war.

Most of these guys (Rob included) had never seen combat before. This was true of more than 95 percent of U.S. and Canadian armed forces. The world had been at peace, relatively speaking, for a decade.

Rob swiveled his head and looked the other way, toward the front of the craft, where the door gunner sat by his FN MAG M240 machine gun, doing a decent impression of a catnap. MAG: mitrailleuse d'appui général, French for "general purpose." The M240 fires 650 to 1,000 rounds per minute. Rob's mathematical mind automatically ran the quick calculation. Once that gunner pulled the trigger, the big gun would be shooting ten to fifteen rounds every second. Not bad, for general purposes.

Those rounds were 7.62s. Unlike the ".50" of the .50 cal rounds Rob carried, which describes the bullet's diameter (or, more accurately, the diameter of the gun barrel that fires it) in inches, the "7.62" denotes diameter in millimeters. A .45, a .38, a .22, those are inch-based calibers, the classic American naming style for firearms and ammunition. The popular 9mm (like the sidearm Rob carried) follows the European metric convention, as did the 5.56 shells that went with Rob's combat rifle, the C8, and its close cousin, the American military workhorse M4, and the ever-popular M16, the standard U.S. service rifle since Vietnam.

Before boarding the chopper, Rob had talked with a young Delta sniper who carried an SR-25. Rob liked that gun. A semiautomatic, the SR-25 is built like an M16 only with a longer barrel, and rather than a 5.56 it shoots a 7.62, which packs that much more punch.

And then there was the massive .50 cal sniper rifle resting its stock on the helo's floor next to Rob's left foot. The .50 cal he would use to make history. Standing on its end, the long gun stood nearly as high as Rob himself, each rocket-ship-like bullet tall as a Coke can. A round from a .50 cal can reach out and touch someone at distances of more than a mile, and do so with a force that can take out an engine block. It is, as Rob puts it, "like a punch in the face from God."

"Ten minutes out!" came the call back into the cabin.

Furlong looked over at the front gunner's pintle-mounted M240 again, and wondered what it would sound like when that big gun exploded into action.

Husaybah, Iraq Saturday, April 17, 2004, early morning

When Jason Delgado woke up in his bank office on the morning of April 17, his first thought was, Shit. He did not have a good feeling about the day ahead. Jason was not a banker, and this was no ordinary bank. He was the chief scout of his marine scout sniper platoon, and the sprawl of deserted offices and warehouses stuck on the ass-crack known as the Iraq-Syrian border were what he and his team had been calling home for a few months now.

He sat up on his cot, swiveled around to plant his feet on the floor, and looked around to find the source of the gunfire that had roused him. Through the open door he saw the other two snipers in his section, Josh Mavica and Brandon DelFiorentino, sitting on their bunk beds, shooting people.

On their Xboxes. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Boys will be boys. Delgado shook his head. "You guys don't get enough of that shit in your day job?" He nodded in the direction of the city that lay outside the walls of their base camp. Although barely six months their senior, Delgado felt something like a father's responsibility for these two, and for all the other guys in the platoon, too. Not yet twenty-three himself, Delgado was platoon sergeant of the sniper platoon for Lima Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment, in charge of managing the fragile state of this misbegotten city.

It was barely two years since Rob Furlong's predawn helicopter ride into eastern Afghanistan, but the world was now a vastly different place. A year earlier, in March 2003, Delgado had been part of the unit that pushed north through Iraq to take Baghdad away from Saddam Hussein and give it back to the people. Now he was back in country on a new deployment, this time to the Wild West border town of Husaybah, his base of operations a literal stone's throw from Syria.

Husaybah. A three-syllable word meaning roughly "I can't believe the shit we're in." The drug-smuggling, arms-running, corruption capital of western Iraq, Husaybah made Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch look like a girls' finishing school.

Delgado reached down and grabbed his M40A3. Not quite the monster of Furlong's .50, but still a serious boom stick. The bolt-action M40 fires a .30-06 cartridge, the thirty-aught-six referring to both its caliber (.30) and the year it was adopted by the U.S. military (1906). The bolt action meant it wouldn't provide the rapid-fire performance of a semiauto, like the M16 or the SR-25, but it delivered a hell of a wallop, and with phenomenal accuracy.

He headed to the porta-john, taking the gun with him. You never knew just when some upright citizen would fire a mortar shell over the wall.

Delgado was frustrated and pissed off. Worse, he was worried. For more than six weeks he'd been saying there was trouble brewing out in the streets, not just normal everyday urban-shithole trouble but the serious kind. Nobody seemed to believe him or see what he was seeing. Just a few days earlier one of his snipers had been shot through both legs. Another marine had died; yet another was back in the States in a coma, and probably wouldn't make it. To Jason, this did not feel like a series of unfortunate events. These were not random attacks.

Delgado grew up in the streets. He knew what it smelled like when something bad was about to go down. He was smelling it right now.

Somewhere in Helmand Province, Afghanistan Thursday, July 9, 2009, midday

Nick Irving stood up, stretched, and yawned. He looked down at where he'd been sleeping: a spit of desert scrub with a small rock serving as his pillow. Not exactly the Hilton. Still, it was sleep. How long had he been out? He glanced at his watch. More than two hours. Amazing. In the past four days Nick had barely slept at all — a few stolen minutes here and there, a total of no more than three of the last ninety hours.

He bent down and picked up Dirty Diana off the blanket where he had carefully laid her. His beloved SR-25, named, of course, for the Michael Jackson song (released in 1988 when Irving was not yet two). A close cousin to the workhorse M4, the SR-25 was a smaller gun than Delgado's M40. Nick liked it for that reason: it was smaller and lighter, like himself, and he also liked it for its semiautomatic action, which suited the kind of intense, rapid-fire action he'd seen over five deployments as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan. No long slow stalks or one-shot/one-kill Vietnam-style missions for Irving. At least not so far. No, the shit he'd seen had been more like the classic close-quarters-battle (CQB), full-contact, down-and-dirty fighting they'd practiced for days on end in ranger training than what you'd think of as a sniper mission per se.

The rangers are a relatively small Spec Ops outfit, numerically speaking, and tend to have an unusually high op tempo. In Iraq Nick's unit had routinely gone out on two missions per night, and sometimes as many as four or five. They'd go hit their target, be on their way back to rest and get some chow, and there'd be the commander on the radio saying they'd just gotten fresh intel on a new target, and they were back out again.

Back in the nineties, rangers served more or less in a supporting role, as in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, when the Third Ranger Battalion (Nick's unit) supported the Delta Force fighters. In the new century's asymmetrical warfare that quickly changed, with ranger units working independently, gathering their own intel and mounting their own missions, doing their own high-value target (HVT) hits. Being a ranger sniper had become something like being a sniper on a SWAT team. Fast, hard strikes at short distances, always moving. No sitting out there in a ghillie suit, looking for a target for a week, pissing in your pants while you lay in wait. Nick kept Dirty Diana dialed in at three hundred meters, a relatively short range for a sniper, and he'd taken plenty of shots shorter than that.

He strolled over to where a knot of marines were sitting playing poker. Irving and his spotter, Mike Pemberton, were the only two rangers here, temporary guests at a marine outpost somewhere out in the middle of the nowhere known as Helmand Province.

Jutting up from the middle of Afghanistan's southern border, Helmand was a very different part of the country from the area Rob Furlong had seen seven years earlier, in 2002, when the war was still fresh. No mountains to speak of here, just low-lying scrub, desert, and urban terrain. And poppies. Billions of poppies. Helmand Province had the largest concentration of poppy cultivation anywhere in the world. It was, in other words, heroin central, which meant it was also Taliban central and, increasingly, a safe haven for foreign radical Islamist forces.

American military presence here had been, up to this point, fairly close to zero.

"Hey, we heard where you guys are headed," one of the marines said. "That's some far-flung shit out there."

It was. Irving and Pemberton were headed deep behind enemy lines, into an area even marines wouldn't go without a full complement of forces, as Nick would soon learn.

"Watch out for the Chechen," said a second marine.

The Chechen? wondered Nick. Who the hell is the Chechen?

* * *

Somalia 1995. Afghanistan 2002. Iraq 2004. Afghanistan 2009.

Four plot points on a graph of America at war. That decade and a half has redefined the nature of the modern sniper, and Spec Ops snipers like Alex Morrison, Rob Furlong, Jason Delgado, and Nick Irving have played defining roles in each of these pivot points.

While Alex sat in the dark, heading for his rendezvous with the Mogadishu coastline, I was stationed in San Diego, working as a rescue swimmer on an antisubmarine helicopter squadron, still two and a half years away from entering BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training). The idea of being a sniper was the furthest thing from my mind. When Rob Furlong boarded his Chinook to fly into combat in Afghanistan seven years later, I was there, too, just miles away, now serving as a sniper for SEAL Team Three, Echo Platoon, waiting to hear if we would be sent in after Neil Roberts and the others. By the time Jason Delgado was waking up on April 17, 2004, in Husaybah, my BUD/S classmate Eric Davis and I were back in the States, implementing a stem-to-stern renovation of the Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) sniper course, where I would serve as course master for a few years. And when Nick Irving went deep into Taliban territory in Helmand Province in 2009, I was in the private sector, writing a book about snipers and beginning a career as an analyst and media commentator on military and foreign affairs. Whether from the inside looking out or the outside looking in, for a decade and a half the world of the Special Operations sniper has been my home, my study, and my fascination.


Excerpted from "The Killing School"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Brandon Webb.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Author's Note
Prologue: Living with Death

1. Warrior, Assassin, Spy
2. Born to Shoot
3. Hell

4. Sniper School
5. The Platinum Standard
6. Zen Mind, Lethal Mind
7. The Reality of War
8. The Art and Science of the Shot

9. Welcome to the Jungle
10. Outside the Box
11. The Long Night

12. Ambush
13. Impact
14. Deliverance

15. Taking Life

Epilogue: Alive
Afterword: A Spec Ops Sniper in Civilian Life

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