Thirty-two of the world's best snipers met at Fort Bragg, N.C. to face off in the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School Sniper Competition, Dec. 2-6.
A two-man team assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) emerged as this year's winner. Second place went to a team from 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), with third place going to the Navy SEALs assigned to Naval Special Warfare-East.
According to the event's officials from 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne), the competition was hosted in order to test the skill level, training, methodology and knowledge of all participants. The competition events are designed to challenge comfort zones, test capabilities and identify training shortfalls. The overall intent of this competition is to foster camaraderie among the special operations sniper community.
The competition consisted of 16 two-man sniper teams. Each team had to work together through 14 events, including repeated day and night fire and maneuvering techniques, which are fitting for the modern day sniper.
The events included casualty evacuation while engaging enemies, bounding movement under fire, pistol and rifle alternate assault and sniping enemies from improvised firing positions.
"This is a good competition with a good array of events. The traditional sit and wait sniper doesn't exist like it used to. This competition represents a more mobile, running and gunning sniper," said Staff Sgt. Grant Quezada, a sniper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 275th Ranger Regiment and a native of Prescott, Ariz.
Even with 16 teams, this year's contest had half the participants of the previous year.
Last year 32 teams got in, but it was too much to handle with our limited resources and instructors. It takes so much support for each event," said Tim Gozelski, a SWCS instructor.
Although there were less participants this year, Gozelski explained how having fewer snipers improved the competition.
"With smaller teams, we are getting higher quality snipers because only the best can attend," said Gozelski.
The contestants who attended were comprised of Special Forces Soldiers, Marines, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and international sniper teams from partner nations. All of them have been battle-hardened and experienced in their skill sets.
"All these guys have combat experience, especially in sniping. There are guys down range who are equal or better than these guys but the ones we have here are from the same handful of the best snipers in the world," said Gozelski.
Not only were the competitors experienced, but they knew how significant their roles are on today's battlefield and how the competition requires them to showcase the skills they use while deployed.
"Snipers are one of the biggest force multipliers on the battlefield," said Sgt. Chad Mutchler, a sniper with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and a Lynchburg, Va. native. "We can engage targets from a distance and mitigate risk to ourselves and other Soldiers. What you see here replicates what we do overseas," he said.
Many of the snipers in attendance knew how important the competition was, and what a rare opportunity it was to be able to participate.
"This is my first time ever shooting this competition and I realize it may be my last," said Mutchler. "The biggest piece of advice I was given before coming and the biggest piece of advice I could give is to shoot to have fun and not be too stressed about who's going to win," he said.