By Sgt. 1st Class Shelman Spencer, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and SchoolApril 29, 2015
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, April 29) -- Sniper teams from special-operations units, federal and state law enforcement agencies along with foreign competitors from around the globe converged on the Special Forces Sniper Course to put their skills to the test in this year's U.S. Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition.
Twenty-four teams, including four foreign teams, competed for one year of bragging rights to say they are the best in their business. Each team is comprised of one shooter and a spotter.
Each team faced 19 challenging events in every aspect of sniper operations in both day and night events, which were derived from Special Forces Sniper Course instructors building their own event based off real world experiences, pitting snipers against time, distance and unknown circumstances.
Sniper teams faced tactical challenges while moving through urban environments, all the while engaging targets as close as 25-meters and as far as 1,000 meters. The challenges test team members' ability to communicate with each other and shoot accurately while racing to beat the clock.
Events are derived from Special Forces Sniper Course Instructors developing their own challenges based off real world engagements. Instructors then test and develop the event prior to the competition to ensure accuracy.
"This competition is a very difficult, anyone who aims to max out the events find out that they cant," said an instructor at the Special Forces Sniper Course. "There aren't too many military tactical competitions out there and that's what separates us from everyone else. Other competitions focus on marksmanship, for our competition it's a sniper competition so it's encompassing field craft skills as well, a combination of all of your craft."
This being the 6th annual competition hosted by the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School's Sniper Committee brought in many new competitors. Approximately three-quarters of this year's teams, this was their first time competing here.
"It's a very well planned, very prepared and challenging competition," said Staff Sgt. Beau Rushing, an instructor at the U.S. Army Sniper School, Fort Benning, Ga. "You're not always in the prone here shooting, your always shooting different positions and when you're deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever it may be, you're not always going to be in the prone, you might have to use a tripod to shoot with, or shoot off a rock that's not flat or even off a roof top, which is pretty common."
Most teams practice and train together on a daily basis, knowing how to maneuver like a well-oiled machine. That wasn't entirely the case for the Army Sniper School Team.
"Off the start, we had a lot of catching up to, because all these guys had been training together, but once we overcame some kinks in our shooter/spotter dialog I think we started to gel a lot better," said Sgt. Jim Soto, also an instructor at the U.S Army Sniper School. "If you don't have good communications, that sniper team won't succeed."
Being able to participate in the competition starts with a competition to see who is best qualified to represent their organization.
"All instructors at the Fort Benning Sniper School who want to attend a competition have to do a shoot off for it," said Rushing. The top two people who score the highest from that shoot off events are selected to go to the competition."
The competition is more than just bragging rights, its taking what you learn from the events and other competitors.
"I write down each event every night and I'm going to take it back and brief it so we can tweak our international sniper competition," said Rushing.
A sniper competition is about the excellence in your craft, it validate everyone training and ability to apply what they learn here in real world situations.