JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (June 24, 2013) -- Far from home, two U.S. Soldiers lie still on the ground, camouflaged among the long dry weeds. Their breathing is slow and steady. One of them has his sniper rifle tight against his shoulder while the other stares down the spotter scope at their target in the distance.

While this is not a life and death scenario, a lot rides on their skills as snipers. Staff Sgt. John Flynn and Spc. James Griswold, both with 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, were a part of Team Bayonet, an 18-member U.S. marksmanship team that attended the Australian Army Skills at Arms Meeting, or AASAM. The Soldiers competed in a combat-focused match against 16 other international military teams in Victoria, Australia, to determine the best individual shooter and competing nation, May 6-17.

This was the first year the 7th Infantry Division participated in the Australian Army's competition. The 7th Inf. Div. team was the only team to represent the U.S.

Team Bayonet competed in approximately 84 matches. Three major categories were; Open Sniper Competition, The Champion Shot of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the International Competition, where all 16 international teams competed against each other.

"We finished in the middle of the pack," said Griswold, a native of Knoxville, Tenn. "We weren't the best shooters, but we weren't the worst out there."

Team Bayonet spent eight hours a day, for two weeks, honing its skills on rifle and pistol marksmanship, preparing their weapons for competition and studying the AASAM competition guide prior to leaving for Australia.

"None of us have competed in the AASAM before, so it's kind of confusing," said Flynn, a native of Scotia, N.Y. "We used the two weeks (prior) to figure out how to do half the matches and practice what we could, knowing there would be a couple of days to practice before the competition started."

This year, the competition included teams from Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. Contestants fired their military standard issue pistol, rifle, sniper rifle and machine gun.

Instead of using paper targets or balloons, the AASAM used realistic scenarios consisting of moving targets such as a remote controlled car with reactive targets that could go up to 35 mph, slow down, speed up, take turns and stop if the simulated driver of the vehicle was hit.

"Overall the competition was really well run," Flynn said. "The various matches tested our abilities to shoot in different positions and engage multiple targets."

Unfortunately, in a competition with such skilled shooters little mistakes cost the team points.

"A lot of things go on in your mind when you're about to take a shot," Griswold said. "Whether it be having the scope set, adjusting for wind or remembering all your gear. I hope to teach the guys who are starting out to be snipers and explain why these are important."

Flynn said he hopes Team Bayonet will get to represent the U.S. again next year.

"It's a type of experience that most people aren't going to be able to get, and something I think our Army needs to look more into in the development of our shooters," Flynn said. "Maybe one person from Team Bayonet can help next year's team train."

Page last updated Tue June 25th, 2013 at 06:57