ONE SHOT, ONE KILL!
(Ft. Benning) An intriguing and challenging assignment was to cover a group of Army Rangers as they underwent six weeks of intensive training at US Army Sniper School.
We spent the six weeks in the bush and on the massive Ft. Benning, documenting
the rigor of gaining a 'Bravo Four' certification. It is a specialized infantry skill, earned not for a medal, patch, insignia or bragging rights, rather it is a tool used by combat teams. These 20 something year old soldiers, already Rangers and tough fighters, were being trained to become long range killers.
"One shot, one kill!" is not bravado as much as it is the mantra and operating directive
or imperative of the sniper. The Rangers were trained to spend hours, perhaps days
stalking a target. When the moment comes, they likely have only one shot.
Under watchful eyes, they are trained in the skill of field craft, range estimation,
trajectory, minutes of angle and marksmanship. Snipers work in teams of two-a spotter, who helps with targeting and the rifleman. In training they keep a detailed log of each
shot including wind, atmosphere, humidity, visual conditions, range and accuracy.
Each sniper constructs his own "gillie suit" made of native growth and camouflage material to allow him to blend in with the environment. One of the make or break tests during the six weeks of training is the ability to find an a shooting position that instructors can not spot, even with sophisticated scopes.
Even with our advantage of being in the bush with the sniper team, and being in front of them, the sniper is difficult to spot at a close distance.
We were able to use the long reach of our jib camera mount to "sneak up" on a sniper in a hide position.
The Rangers were pushed 12 to 14 hours a day, hiking everywhere. During their final
field training exercise they dug "hide holes" in the ground where they slept. Food, in the form of MRE (meals ready to eat) was taken on the run. They were given specific assignments and missions and tested every step of the way. The training was in forest terrain, in a desert clime and in urban or village training sites.
By the end of the six weeks, some of the class had been cut and dropped from the school. Only the very best were awarded the certification. They were then returned to their units, armed with a special skill, and awaited future deployment and assignment.
During our six weeks, we saw young men being tested, pushed to their limit and saw as they gained a unique skill, built a special camaraderie and evinced a loyal devotion to duty and each other.
I have often wondered how the young Rangers have fared in their postings around the globe.
See you down the trail.