While the 2015 International Sniper Competition challenged 37 sniper teams with realistic scenarios Oct. 19-22, it also gave the teams an opportunity to share tactics and training practices.
“I’m seeing a lot of technical and tactical competence out of everyone,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Roman, primary instructor of the gunslinger event in the competition. “They shoot, they move, they communicate and you can tell they’re using every single skill they learned in sniper school.”
The competition involved 96 hours of sniper activities to include carbine and pistol shoots, night shoots, a stress shoot, long distance and range estimation and foot marches between ranges.
The competition started in 2001, and has grown over the years, said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Fox, instructor team sergeant with the Sniper Course.
The advancements each year come from after-action reviews following the competition between Fort Benning and the competitors. The information doesn’t just come from their experience in the competition. Fox said the information on what new training they are doing at their units is worked in, as well.
He said the developers of the competition have collected information over the last15 years to
mold the competition into a test of the most smart, fast, lethal and precise sniper.
“This competition drives a lot of the progression of the Army snipers; a lot of the instructors see what is working for guys that are shooting real-world events and it drives them to change how they train the snipers coming in and out,” said Sgt. 1st Class Zach Barber, a competitor from 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Irwin, California.
Throughout the competition, teams were stressed by the timed events against some of the world’s best. The competition replicated the need a real-world sniper would have to work at a fast pace with minimal sleep and rest, and to adapt to complex scenarios, Fox said. He noted that in combat, a sniper could be inserted somewhere and be expected to be self-sufficient for up to a week or longer.
“Every single event is putting you out of your comfort zone,” said Staff Sgt. Jaime Jimenez, competitor from the Warrior Training Center team.
During the gunslinger event at Burroughs Range, teams made a 30- to 40-yard sprint to the firing line when a grenade exploded to engage color-coded targets with pistols, using only one round per target. Next, competitors shot from a barrier using alternate firing positions using their sling and their weapon system for proper support.
“I want them to think outside the box and use whatever aids they deem necessary as mission-essential equipment so that they can successfully engage targets at extreme distances,” he said.
Also at gunslinger, competitors mounted a wide wooden swing to represent an unstable platform. “It shows how a sniper is operational in full-spectrum – air, land and sea,” Fox said.
Throughout the event, Roman said he took note of the professionalism of the competitors, but that he didn’t expect to see anything less.
“Any sniper I’ve met from any type of military organization has been very, very professional,” Roman said. From the best sniper to the ones who need improvement, everyone had the opportunity to benefit from having competed alongside some of the world’s most skilled precision shooters.
“Depending on where they go throughout their careers, this is going to be the most diverse field of individuals that they’re ever going to be around at one time,” Fox said. “The collective pool of knowledge amongst that group of competitors is unparalleled – you can’t find it anywhere else.”
Barber and teammate, Sgt. Alex Hatfield, said they had a disadvantage against teams who had been training together longer than they had.
“That’s a hurdle for us, but we’re working on overcoming it,” Hatfield said whose coach was one of the first Soldiers involved in the competition.
“That chain of teaching and thought and how it has progressed over the years and changed is really interesting,” Hatfield said.
The competition drew out some best practices as well as weaknesses within the community. Fox said it was best to have discovered those weaknesses here during competition rather than in combat.
“At the end of the day, this is all about networking, learning from each other and having a good time coming together as snipers,” Hatfield said.
Photo credit: From across the U.S. military and international Armies, two-man teams compete during the 2015 International Sniper Competition, Tuesday, October20, 2015 at Fort Benning. (Photos by: Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer)