FORT BLISS, Texas -- The sharp crack of an M110 semi-automatic sniper system and a faint plume of sand are the only signs of activity across the glinting sands of New Mexico, as sniper teams engaged targets with unparalleled proficiency.
Sniper teams from 1st Armored Division competed in the Iron Sniper 2019 competition, hosted by 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1AD, August 13-14 at Fort Bliss, Texas and Dona Ana Range Complex, New Mexico.
The competition determines the top sniper team from across 1AD to represent the division at the International Sniper Competition next April in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Sgt. John Sis, an infantryman assigned to 4th Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1 AD and native of Annapolis, Maryland, alongside teammate Spc. Colin Clayton, a cavalry scout assigned to 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1ABCT and a native of Denton, Texas, won the competition, receiving an Army Commendation medal and the chance to represent 1AD.
"This competition shows to me that we're some of the best," said Sis. "The next step is the International Sniper competition, an annual event held at Fort Benning where they have people come in from all branches of the service and other countries to compete to see who the best are."
Throughout the first day of the competition, competitors used their physical fitness and endurance as well as their mental acuity and sniper proficiency to complete several exhausting tasks.
"They began the competition with the Army Combat Fitness Test in full kit and then proceeded to complete a written exam," said Cpt. Nicholas Hurff, the assistant operations officer for 2-37 AR. "They further completed a six-mile ruck march in the summer heat out to a stalking event, where they were completely camouflaged and attempted to infiltrate an area in order to gain shooting positions on a target. They then completed an intelligence collection lane."
On the second day of the competition, the competitors utilized their weapons skills and proficiencies as they shot and transitioned between their M110 sniper rifle, M4 carbine and Beretta M9 pistol as they competed against each other in a series of weapons tests.
Competitors engaged targets using their M110 sniper rifle, or long gun, then quickly switched to their M4 carbine or Beretta M9 pistol to engage shorter range targets while physically moving between objectives.
"The following day involved a day and night shooting competition," said Hurff. "These events ranged from long gun stable firing to multiple engagements while moving during short-range stress shoots."
Instructors at The United States Army Sniper Course educate and train Soldiers who are selected to be critical and creative thinkers, instilling traits of adaptiveness and tactical excellence in their Soldiers, all of which were on full display from the competitors during the competition.
"We're trained to pick out the small and tiny deficiencies in the terrain that can lead us to help identify targets and engage the enemy faster," said Sgt. Jacob Kehler, an infantryman assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania and a member of the runner-up team in the competition. "It just comes down to maintaining your proficiency as you've been taught it. We should be able to come out here and perform these tasks, even if they are challenging."
Snipers play an integral role within 1AD and the Army as a whole, providing unique skills which are essential in providing superior combat capabilities.
"Snipers provide a dual purpose. Not only do they have the ability to be lethal at range, but they're able to provide intelligence collection on objectives," said Hurff. "So when you have Soldiers moving forward, actually hitting the objective, you're able to have ground personnel watching the objective where they're collecting information such as the number of people, disposition and composition, allowing Soldiers to be more effective and lethal on the objective and therefore able to save more lives."
Sis and Clayton have the unique opportunity to represent 1AD at the International Sniper Competition, providing them the opportunity to further distinguish themselves among their peers and from other divisions.
"You want the best teams to represent you at the International Sniper Competition," said Hurff. "Representing 1AD at these large scale competitions reflects greatly on the Soldiers, their unit and the division."