FORT BENNING, Ga. - Sniper teams from across the world traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, to compete in the 2017 International Sniper Competition held Oct. 15-20. The goal of the competition was to identify the best sniper team from a wide range of agencies and organizations that included the U.S. military, international militaries, and local, state and federal law enforcement.
The 29 sniper teams had to complete a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that tested a range of sniper skills such as long-range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance and reporting abilities, and the ability to move with stealth and concealment.
Representing the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team was Spc. Jonathan Rojo, a sniper team leader with 2-3 Infantry, and Spc. Adrian Leatherman, a sniper team leader with 1-23 Infantry.
"Both Spc. Leatherman and I have worked together for a while," said Rojo, a native of Tucson, Arizona. "We graduated out of sniper school together this last February. As new snipers, it was interesting for us to go up against the top ten percent of snipers around the world."
Considering this, Rojo said they did well for who they were up against. They placed first in events such as the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) shoot and Aerial Gunnery.
"We are still in the learning stage of everything," said Leatherman. "Competing against all the people with more experience lets me know where I need to improve to continue growing."
During the LMTV shoot, the team had to engage targets from the back of the vehicle. Rojo shot from the tailgate of the LMTV and Spc. Leatherman shot from the troop strap that ran above the tailgate. There were targets ranging 100 meters to 500 meters and the team had to engage as the LMTV was moving.
"It is extremely difficult," said Rojo. "You are trying to stay as stable as possible and make micro movements, but the LMTV bounces you around. You work with your weapon to minimalize bounce, shoot your rounds and spot them as they land. Even if you make perfect corrections, you can bounce in the LMTV and come off target."
For the Aerial Gunnery, they shot out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at about 250 feet in the air, engaging targets from 300 to 350 meters away. This event allowed for only one shooter out of the two. Neither of them had fired a weapon from a helicopter before.
"Shooting from the helicopter is a difficult task and my favorite event," said Leatherman, a native of Abington, Pennsylvania. "You are try to look through a magnified optic and shoot at a target that was 300 yards away while you on an unstable platform."
The two of them decided Leatherman would spot and Rojo would shoot for the event due to Rojo receiving related training back on JBLM at Range 19, which has a tower for sniper training. He spent a lot of time honing his skills at the very top of the tower.
"We have to do math beforehand when shooting at the elevations we were at in the helicopter," Rojo said. "The round is going to travel farther due to gravity having less effect on it. You have to account for that."
"Overall it was a very professional competition," said Rojo. "The instructors organized it very well. I learned a lot from it, a lot that I can bring back to my unit."
With the competition over, both Leatherman and Rojo plan to continue training within the Army and outside the Army with civilian marksman courses to expand their knowledge as much as they can within the field. Both look forward to being able to participate in the competition again.