Allow me to set a little background before I start on this post. Today, my son was born while I desperately tried to leave Fort Benning to be with my wife and child. He was 15 weeks premature, but he’s got some fight in him. It’s all been one big emotional rollercoaster leaving me overwhelmed and drained. I’m currently on the way home as I type this and hopefully within 24 hours I’ll be able to meet my son for the first time. So if this post comes off as angry or frustrated, its simply because I am.
During the time I was at Fort Benning I did a little browsing around. I hit up all the big military gear stores in the area and found aisle upon aisle of RANGER gear (if you’ve seen the ranger promo video then say it in that voice everytime I say it). RANGER stickers, RANGER hats, RANGER shirts, RANGER coffee mugs, RANGER panties, RANGER thongs, RANGER banana hammocks! The amount of RANGER gear is about as large as the typical RANGER ego and thats cool if you’re a RANGER. I, unfortunately am not, nor do I care to go suck for 60 + days just to say I did it. Kudos to the guys who have done it, but it was never something I wanted to do in my career. Honestly, I’d rather go suck at SERE instead.
Amongst all the RANGER gear, I also noticed a certain comradre between the guys that did have their tabs. That common ground of suck melded into stories of shit that happened while they were at school and everyone rejoiced in their mutual suffering.
A lot of the infantry guys that didn’t have a tab just didnt understand it. What they saw as arrogance above them, I realized was the experience and knowledge of basic infantry techniques and skills that some of the leaders in the infantry are lacking. It rubbed some people wrong, but that happens with any skill set you have developed over other people. Egos get in the way, bravado leads to anger, and then people bunt heads.
Continuing on in my scouring the stores I saw a lot of airborne gear as well. Slightly less than that there was a noticable assortment of jumpmaster and pathfinder gear as well. All important schools to operations within certain aspects of the Army. As I thought on it some more while searching for any sniper merchandise, I thought about how many jumpmasters and how many pathfinders I actually encounter in my unit. The answer to that is few. The reason for that is that they serve no purpose in a stryker unit. None. Their skill set is absolutely worthless to a mechanized or stryker unit, which at this point, the majority of the Army has converted to. Airborne is cool, they pump a lot of guys through that, but its also useless to the majority of the Army. I get their merchandising strategy though, as a lot of new guys go through that course and are all super-hooah-motivated and will buy anything you put in front of them.
All and all in my searching I came across a sniper tab sticker, a patch I already have, a ghillie suit that would snag on everything in the woods, and two shirts, both of which were ridiculously cliche and not a bit of classy or stylish. They were shirts for dumb super-hooah-motivated privates. Not a grown man, proud of his achievement. Not a respectable person invested in his craft, but a kid you might see hanging out in the mall on a friday night. Putting it bluntly, these are shirts that airsoft snipers would wear under all of their OPERATOR gear.
To make things worse snipers aren’t a location specific group. Every combat unit has snipers; mechanized, stryker, light, and airborne alike. They are a force multiplier where ever they go, much like ranger (you can stop saying it like that now) tabbed infantry guys in regular units. However, unlike rangers, there are only specific slots for snipers. They are limited by not only their numbers, but the military’s understanding of how to utilize and employ them. Just getting units to fill the sniper spots with unqualified guys proves to be a challenge. This is an across the board mentality as well and it is a dooming mindset. Our enemies recognize the need for snipers. The civil war in Syria has been a playground for ISIS snipers and they have done well.
Meanwhile the Army wants to pump money into all of these cool sniper toys and long guns that no one knows how to use or maintain and then you wind up with ineffective lumps of precision metal.
All the while the guys that do get to go to sniper school (as has been the experience of four different guys in three different classes) aren’t really taught properly. Instead during range time, when it matters, the instructors are too busy playing on facebook to properly teach guys the appropriate techniques. Essentially it has become bring what you already know and hope its enough. That’s sad, and it fucking disgusts me. To make it worse, the lack of community that is shown by these instructors carries over to the guys that are sent back out to their units. I even asked my soldier, who is about to graduate the course on friday, if he could pick up a copy of my class photo from when I went through. The response the instructor gave him when he asked was a flat “no” with no reasoning towards it. That is just a blatant lack of community and comradre amongst fellow snipers. Its terrible and appauling when compared to other specialized groups and pisses me off to no end. To top it all off, the school house took over running the Army Sniper Association. A group that is supposed to support and benefit snipers across the army. There are never any updates, or posts, or new technique ideas posted…ever. the only thing you hear from them is when theres about to be another international sniper competition because its the only time they get any sort of press.
It shouldn’t be like that. Guys are developing new techniques and new tactics all the time, but since there is no community to speak of these ideas arent passed on to other snipers. I’ve never been to Afghanistan I wouldn’t know the troubles and trials that snipers there have to endure, nor the ideas they came up with to solve their issues, but someone out there does. Just like I’ve learned from dealing with snowy environments from being in Alaska, this is information I could impart upon other snipers, if there was such community. But there isn’t.
Ideas to solve this problem
1. Make sniper tabs authorized for wear.
Knowing who other snipers are will help you recognize the community that you are in.
2.Make snipers in the army a separate branch.
11BB4 should become 11S.
3. NCO schools like ALC should have an additional two weeks of learning how to employ snipers properly as a sniper section leader for the proposed 11S branch.
Mortar ALC does an additional two weeks for their specialty, it would be fitting to do the same.
4.Units need to stop cockblocking snipers from being able to get quality soldiers for their sections.
It needs to be voluntary for soldiers who want to be there not sending your platoon junk down the river.
5. Units need to allot training time for the snipers to practice their trade.
Time shouldn’t be devoured by ridiculous amounts of vehicle maintenance if it isn’t (A) the sniper’s vehicle, or (B) in need of maintenance.
6. Develop an Army course for officers to be integrated into the Captain’s Career Course that teaches them how to utilize their sniper assets properly.
Not enough officers have any clue what to do with a sniper section much less their capabilities. That needs to change.
7. Quality control the instructors at the schoolhouse.
Seriously, they just suck. I’m sorry you got stuck doing some tradoc time guy, but suck it the fuck up buttercup and teach the next generation properly.
If these criteria were even somewhat met, it would be a start to fixing the mess that is the sniper community. If anyone knows who I need to talk to about any of this and getting changes made, please let me know. We’ve gone too long with sending half assed trained guys out to go hide in a bush somewhere and hoping he knows what he’s doing. This is a dangerous job. A job that puts you and two other guys out on your own with less support and less firepower at your disposal. Guys need to know what they are doing before they get caught in a shit storm on an op and become some terrorist goat fucker’s chai boy until they can release five more top detainees.
Don’t think its that serious? Go watch “Lone Survivor”. Those guys were Seals with more assets than they knew what to do with and look what happened to their four man team. Spoiler alert: there was one survivor.
So do what you can to affect the changes that need to happen. Cross talk with the other snipers in your area as often as possible. Develope your own techniques and share them. Teach your subordinates. Learn from the leaders. Grow as a community and lets fix this mess.