Infantry: The Sniper Revolution

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December 26, 2009: Over the last five years, sniper training in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps has undergone tremendous change. Mostly this is because so many snipers were getting lots of combat experience. That experience comes back to the sniper training schools. Another change has been increasing communication between the three primary centers of sniper training (army, marines and army Special Forces). Each of these schools have long tended to develop in isolation from the others. But now there are more competitions and gatherings that bring together snipers from all three, and many valuable exchanges of tactics, techniques and experience have taken place. Finally, the growth in the number of snipers led to many more items of sniper weapons and equipment being developed and produced. This has been driven, in part, by the growth in the number of civilians taking up sniping as a sport. Some of these civilian snipers are former military, but most are civilian shooters seeking an edge in their hunting, or simply to develop some new, and challenging, skills.

It was five years ago that the U.S. Army yet again adopted a successful combat practice from the U.S. Marine Corps. In this case, the army began training additional snipers, so that army units would have more than three times as many. Which is about the same number of snipers the marines have had for a long time.

To do make this happen, the army is tripled the output of its sniper schools. The army had a five week sniper course, while the marines had a ten week course that was considered one of the best in the world. These schools turn out professional snipers who know how to operate independently in two man teams.

Marine regiments (about the same size as army brigades) then had about three times as many snipers per battalion as did army units. Back then, the army only has six or eight snipers per infantry battalion. The additional sniper training sought to provide one sniper in each infantry squad. There are 27 squads in an infantry battalion.

But both the army and the marines were also taking advantage of the greater number of veteran troops in their combat units, and the fact that just about every soldier has a rifle with a scope, and has a lot of target practice behind them. In the past, infantry commanders were encouraged to find and designate about ten percent of their men as sharpshooters (sort of sniper lite) and make use of these guys to take out enemy troops at a distance, with single shots. This was a trend that had been growing for over a decade, and was becoming a major feature of American infantry tactics. These sharpshooters, especially the ones with combat experience, were the prime candidates for sniper school. The trained snipers, however, also have the special skills required to find the best shooting position, and how to stay hidden, and get out of harms way if discovered. Trained snipers have proved to be a powerful weapon in the kinds of battles encountered in Afghanistan and Iraq. The enemy fighters greatly fear the snipers, and the presence of snipers restricted the mobility of enemy gunmen.

 

 


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