Military snipers traditionally have struggled to defend their image in the public eye. "Some people think that we are the sneaky guys who just go out and indiscriminately kill," said Master Sgt. Mark Carey, an instructor at the Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, N.C. The reality is that, "in the military, we talk discipline and controlled fire," he said.
The selection process to become a special operations sniper is rigorous, he said at a National Defense Industrial Association's armaments conference. "You do not want a power shooter," he said.
The soldiers selected are "above-average intelligence for the most part; they are independent, self-disciplined; they have to demonstrate marksmanship ability and field craft skills, and they have to be cleared by a Defense Department psychiatrist," to eliminate the possibility that they might snap, Carey said. "At least, we are hoping that nobody is going to get out there and do the wrong thing some day."
The Defense Department operates seven sniper schools. Three belong to the Marine Corps, three to the Army and one to the Army National Guard. Training ranges between two to eight weeks, and snipers will acquire precision shooting skills, observer skills and field-craft techniques. While conventional snipers can train for eight to 24 hours without food, the special operations snipers go out for 10 days and subsist on MREs and water, Carey said.
It is possible to be a sniper and be assigned to other duties, Carey explained, but increasingly the sniper is becoming a primary capability within special operations. The Marine Corps, he acknowledged, always has considered being a sniper a primary duty.
In current operations, the role of snipers has gained so much importance that the Army Rangers will receive ,an additional 26 snipers to every battalion on top of the existing 14. The special operations forces, both in the Army and in the Navy, have two snipers per detachment, according to Carey.
"In the sniper community, we have different types of snipers out there, but the key is training," said Carey. "When the CINC calls us and says 'it's go time,' then training time is over. It is something that we have to remember, because we need more sustained training."
During operations, SOF snipers go on assignments in two to four-man teams. The SOF snipers have satellite communication capabilities to contact the Joint Task Force, while conventional snipers are limited to line-of-sight communications...