CHINCHILLA, Spain -- They are elite in a platoon full of infantrymen and some of the best shooters in the Army. Not simply because they can hit a target, but because they prove it by completing a seven week course, focused on marksmanship, range estimation, target detection, and observation techniques.
They are snipers. Not only must a sniper be an excellent shooter, they must also be stealthy, disciplined and above all else, patient.
During a recent sniper training exercise held at Chinchilla Training Area in Spain, U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade and Spanish army soldiers from the Spanish Armed Forces Airborne Brigade (BRIPAC), exchanged training techniques and honed their skills as snipers, March 1-3, 2016, as part of Exercise Sky Soldier 16.
This bilateral exercise highlights the integration of the 1-503rd IN REG (ABN) with the BRIPAC. During the exercise, Paratroopers of each country will integrate to conduct combined company and battalion-level airborne operations, Situational Training Exercises to include sniper training, live fire and TOW system training.
Sky Soldier is preparing the battalion's sniper platoon for future contingency operations, to increase training opportunities, and build a foundation for future allied training with the Spanish army.
Snipers have unique abilities that allow them to deliver discriminatory, highly accurate rifle fire against enemy targets that cannot be engaged successfully by the average rifle infantryman because of range, size, location, or visibility. So being a sniper requires advanced basic infantry skills to a high degree of perfection, and this makes them combat multipliers.
As combat multipliers sniper training is unique in its ability to have small two-man teams able to push in behind enemy lines and track enemy movement, conducting overwatch on enemy objectives, said Sgt. Christopher Sylvester, a sniper section leader assigned to 1-503rd IN REG (ABN).
"[A sniper] has the ability to watch and sneak up on an enemy," said Sylvester. "We are able to move undetected by enemies we observe. We also conduct area and route reconnaissance, and long distance rifle shooting proficiency in inclement weather and terrain. These techniques are all part of the training we're conducting this week with our Spanish counterparts. We love working with our [partner] nations especially recon and sniper elements. It gives us a different perspective on how the job can be done."
Using two-man teams, the sniper and spotter practiced shooting targets at a range and in dense vegetation ranges. U.S. and Spanish snipers alike were also given the opportunity to train on each other's weapons to test them out, said Sylvester.
"During this portion of the training exercise, we have timed two-man teams, shooting different firing points and angles, with stationary and moving targets," said Sylvester.
"Overall I felt very comfortable on the Spanish sniper rifles," Sylvester continued. "The foundation of the Spanish sniper weapon system is almost identical to the U.S. sniper weapons system. Their sniper school is also very similar to our school in the states."
"This was absolutely one of the best training opportunities I've had this year. I learned a lot and look forward to working together with the Spanish again when we conduct Exercise Swift Response and Saber Junction," said Sylvester.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deploying forces to the U.S. Army Europe, Africa and Central Command Areas of Responsibility within 18 hours. The Brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build stronger relationships and strengthen the alliance.