Snipers Brave Tough Competition At Fort Bragg


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

"Ahhhhhhhh," screams a soldier with a blown-off leg inside the wreckage of a crashed helicopter. "Get me out of here."
Scurrying through an exercise of the sniper competition Thursday at Fort Bragg, two members of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Police team fire at targets from behind a junked car and atop a building before making their way into a door of the downed aircraft.
Loud, sporadic bursts of machine gun fire echoed through the mock village from a Humvee moving fast in reverse. The soldiers in the truck provide suppressive fire in the simulated rescue on range 37 at the Miller Training Complex.
"Your heart is pumping. Your cardiovascular system is going about 100 miles an hour," said Sgt. 1st Class Tomas Eggers, a sniper with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment of Fort Benning, Ga. "You shake a lot. You're trying to control that weapon. All you want to do is get some breath."
Thursday was the last day of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Sniper Competition, held for the second year on Fort Bragg. The multi-stage event included a dozen exercises, or challenges, over four days.
The teams competed in a sniper stalk, a timed rapid-fire engagement, urban shooting, firing under stressful conditions and other tests of sniper skills and marksmanship.
The targets ranged from 15 to 800 meters away.
"In my opinion," Eggers said, "this is the best sniper course in the Army."
In October, Fort Bragg instructors with the Army Special Operations Command Sniper School won the title at the 10th annual International Sniper Competition on Fort Benning. Those senior noncommissioned officers did not compete this week; instead they helped run the competition.
Still, 19 two-man sniper teams were gunning for top honors at Fort Bragg, the majority of them Special Forces groups. The field included marksmen with the ATF; the Raleigh Police Department's Special Enforcement Unit; the Pasadena (Calif.) Police Department SWAT team; and the Department of Energy.
The first-place team was with Headquarters of the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, said Maj. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the Army's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Third Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment from Fort Benning, Ga., came in second, followed by the 1st Special Forces Group out of Fort Lewis, Wash., he said.
Thursday's "stress shoot" competition was intense.
The ATF snipers pulled Enrique Alvarez from the helicopter and carried him down the street. They then hoisted the 42-year-old role player from San Diego - who actually lost his left leg in a fight 15 years ago - into the rear of the Humvee.
For participants, the event was a culmination of everything: weapons handling, physical fitness, elevated heart-rate shooting, time management and the engagement of threatening targets while encountering friendly ones.
All of it had to be done from awkward shooting positions while on the move and wearing body armor and a helmet and carrying a sniper rifle, noted Master Sgt. Kevin Owens, who was in charge of the course.
Competitors had to rope down a four-story building (meant to represent a helicopter) before hustling down the road and pinpointing targets along the course.
"It's difficult. It's challenging," said Sgt. 1st Class Jereme Groves of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Regiment. "There are a lot of equations that go into it. You have to fully develop the fundamentals and pay attention to the details. It's very rewarding."
Not only must these riflemen be deadly shots, the soldiers say, but they have to be smart. Judging distance is essential.
"It all starts with marksmanship fundamentals, but you have to do mathematical formulas in your head," Eggers said. "You can't just be someone who shoots real well. You make connections on the fly. You take into account the size of the target. A sniper must have the ability to learn."
"This is stuff we teach at the school," Butler said. "These are specific lessons learned in training. We teach it because it's based on real combat experience."