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Do You Really Use Your Snipers, Commander?

Written by J Rawls

Snipers are an integral part of today’s modern combat environment. Their use in history has been solidified by sharp shooters in countless battles for decades. Utilization of a sniper team (there is even a school on how to use them – SEO) has been broadened and sharpened to a science. As a CO, are you truly utilizing them to your ultimate benefit? There may be some aspects that you need to tighten up.

Every sniper can shoot. When people see a team, they immediately see their weapons and register them as shooters. Truth is, anyone can shoot. It may be critical to know the fundamentals, but it isn’t the hardest part of being in a sniper section. The weapon systems employed by these sections are top of the line. Regular practice and training ensures this skill does not perish. However, there are two other skills that are a little harder.

The first is Field Craft. Field craft can be time-consuming and frustrating. It is a dying art, now that Army sniper schools issue ghillie suits. The stalk is one of the hardest parts of any training iteration. So much time is given to this one aspect, not to mention the variations in deployable terrain and seasons. We like to write it off, but field craft expands the use of shooting positions and possibilities.

The second major skill, often overlooked, is data gathering. The sniper section is capable of gathering vast amounts of data. Many people don’t know that drawing is a utilized skill for snipers. Yes, they have to know how to draw. When on target, they draw the area, in detail. This is also a perishable skill and must be practiced. These drawings allow you, the CO, to see what they are seeing. Can’t they just take a picture? Sure, sometimes they do, but it may give away their position, and it isn’t always an option.

When they train to shoot, they focus on range estimation and target detection. These are higher level shooter skills, but they are also dual role. This means they are utilized as intel gathering tools as well as shot placement. This is information that you need to know. Rely on them as support for intel teams. The intel teams know how to use them; it just isn’t always run that way.

Sometimes you see sniper teams used as over watch. When a known target, at distance, is identified, this makes sense. If not, then there is a thing called “designated marksman” that needs to be used for this. Don’t waste your assets and don’t limit your capabilities.

It is easy to say, “We have snipers, we can take out targets from a distance,” and call it a day. That isn’t the case. The sniper teams have many more skills, and they can be specialized. Talk to your Section Sergeant to find out what they focus on. Knowing your capabilities is half the battle.


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About the author

J Rawls

Jeremy Rawls is a former active duty Marine with two combat tours in Iraq. He was part of the invasion in 2003 and later returned for the take down of Fallujah. After leaving the Corps, he worked as a contractor for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security with two contracts in Afghanistan. He is currently a freelance writer.