• Sniper candidate Sgt. Juan Olivera, a Houston, native, and infantryman with C Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, aims downrange Feb. 27, 2012 during a range exercise at Dona Ana Range, N.M. The range was part of the five-week U.S. Army Sniper School held at Fort Bliss from Feb. 5 through March 8. Five instructors travelled from Fort Benning, Ga., to conduct the five-week course.  (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Roger RyDell Daniels)

    Army Sniper School comes to Fort Bliss

    Sniper candidate Sgt. Juan Olivera, a Houston, native, and infantryman with C Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, aims downrange Feb. 27, 2012 during a range exercise at Dona Ana Range, N.M...

  • Boxes of 7.62 mm ammunition sit ready for use in a sniper weapon system at Dona Ana Range, N.M., Feb. 27, 2012. The range " where two-man teams estimates target distances before shooting -- was part of the U.S. Army Sniper School, which was held at Fort Bliss from Feb. 5 through March 8. Five instructors travelled from the school's main location at Fort Benning, Ga., to conduct the five-week course. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Roger RyDell Daniels)

    Army Sniper School comes to Fort Bliss

    Boxes of 7.62 mm ammunition sit ready for use in a sniper weapon system at Dona Ana Range, N.M., Feb. 27, 2012. The range " where two-man teams estimates target distances before shooting -- was part of the U.S. Army Sniper School, which was held at...

  • Spc. Andrew Baldridge, an Arlington, Texas native and infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, prepares to shoot his M110 rifle Feb. 27, 2012 at Dona Ana Range, N.M., while attending the U.S. Army Sniper School. Baldridge gets direction and distance guidance from his spotter, Spc. George Brown, a Floresville, Texas, native and infantryman with HHC, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 1st AD. Five instructors travelled from Fort Benning, Ga., to Fort Bliss to conduct the five-week course held from February 5 through March 8. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Roger RyDell Daniels)

    Army Sniper School comes to Fort Bliss

    Spc. Andrew Baldridge, an Arlington, Texas native and infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, prepares to shoot his M110 rifle Feb. 27, 2012 at Dona Ana...

  • An M110 rifle, part of the sniper weapon systems, sits ready for use during a range exercise at Dona Ana Range, N.M., Feb. 27, 2012. The range was part of the U.S. Army Sniper School training, which was held at Fort Bliss from Feb. 5 through March 8. Five instructors travelled from the school's main location at Fort Benning, Ga., to conduct the five-week course. Twenty-two of the 44 Soldiers who began the course successfully graduated. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Roger RyDell Daniels)

    Army Sniper School comes to Fort Bliss

    An M110 rifle, part of the sniper weapon systems, sits ready for use during a range exercise at Dona Ana Range, N.M., Feb. 27, 2012. The range was part of the U.S. Army Sniper School training, which was held at Fort Bliss from Feb. 5 through March 8...

  • Pfc. Wilberto Garcia, a Miami, native, and infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, prepares to shoot his M24 rifle Feb. 27, 2012 at Dona Ana Range, N.M., during a range exercise as part of the U.S. Army Sniper School training. Before pulling the trigger, he receives direction and distance guidance from his spotter, Pfc. Brent Eaton, a Gilroy, Calif., native and infantryman with F. Co., 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 1st AD. Two of the five instructors, who travelled from Fort Benning, Ga., to Fort Bliss to conduct the five-week course held from Feb. 5 through March 8, watch their progress. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Roger RyDell Daniels)

    Army Sniper School comes to Fort Bliss

    Pfc. Wilberto Garcia, a Miami, native, and infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, prepares to shoot his M24 rifle Feb. 27, 2012 at Dona Ana Range...

  • Spc. Andrew Baldridge, an Arlington, Texas, native, and infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, shoots his M110 rifle Feb. 27, 2012 while attending the U.S. Army Sniper School. Baldridge gets direction and distance guidance from his spotter, Spc. George Brown, a Floresville, Texas native and infantryman with HHC, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 1st AD. Five instructors travelled from Fort Benning, Ga., to Fort Bliss to conduct the five-week course held from Feb. 5 through March 8.
(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Roger RyDell Daniels)

    Army Sniper School comes to Fort Bliss

    Spc. Andrew Baldridge, an Arlington, Texas, native, and infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, shoots his M110 rifle Feb. 27, 2012 while attending the...

The young Solider settles himself, locks and loads a 7.62 mm round into his powerful rifle and takes aim. About 30 meters from the Soldier, is a piece of cardboard with a tuna can-sized hole. On the other side of the cardboard, stands a man-sized target 600 meters away.
His task is to successfully shoot the round through the small hole and hit the target.
How does he gain the ability, confidence, and knowledge to complete this task? He graduates from the U.S. Army Sniper School.
On March 8, 22 Soldiers -- 15 from Fort Bliss and seven who are stationed in Hawaii -- became Army snipers after graduating from the five-week course. The course started Feb. 5 with 44 Soldiers, including 14 from Hawaii.
Normally Soldiers have to travel to Fort Benning, Ga. to attend the sniper school. Instead, five instructors travelled to Fort Bliss to conduct the course.
"This [the course held at Fort Bliss] offers more of a one-on-one setting," said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Vest, a Springfield, Mo., native and senior instructor of the course. "These guys learn a lot of stuff in five weeks."
According to the Army, the average Soldier will hit a man-sized target 10 percent of the time at 300 meters using the M16A2 rifle. Graduates of the sniper school are expected to achieve 90 percent first-round hits at 600 meters using the M24 or M110 Sniper Weapon Systems.
"This [becoming a sniper] is why I joined the Army. It's been my life-long dream," said Sgt Alex Devenberg, an infantryman with Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
Besides learning how to shoot rounds through a tiny hole, Devenberg and his fellow classmates also learned how to use four different sniper weapon systems to detect, determine accurate distance and shoot at several types of targets. They also learned how to camouflage themselves and write a sniper team mission statement.
While each unit is authorized three snipers, a sniper mission usually consists of a two-man team -- a shooter and a spotter.
"They usually put the most senior guy as the spotter," said Spc. Robert Cotter, who is the shooter, while Sgt. Devenberg is his spotter.
"All I do [as the shooter] is pull the trigger," said Cotter, a Morgantown, N.C., native and a member of HHC, 4/17th, 1st BCT, 1st AD.
Before Cotter pulls the trigger, Devenberg -- as his spotter - will set the distance and wind adjustments necessary to hit the target.
The role of both members of a sniper team is important in graduating the course, as well as to their unit.
"It is the only school in the Army where your partner can fail you out," Vest said.
Vest said a sniper team is one of the most valuable tools a company commander has during combat.
"They are the eyes and ears of the unit, and they can break the enemy's morale," said Vest.
According to 1st Sgt. Jason Pitman, B Co., 3rd Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 1st AD, the Army has between 500 and 800 snipers, making it one the toughest schools to attend and successfully complete. He said the selection process can be as hard as the school itself.
"You basically pick the best shooters in the unit," Pitman said. "They have to be mature Soldiers, someone who can be left alone for awhile, up to 72 hours. They have to be mature enough to take the shot. They're the only Soldiers who can shoot without getting permission from a commander."

Page last updated Tue March 6th, 2012 at 18:25