RANGER AGAINST WAR: Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Sniper School <

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Sniper School

Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed

by the things that you didn't do

than by the ones you did d0

--Mark Twain

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

the saddest are these, "It might have been!"

--Maude Muller
John Greenleaf Whittier

God Woodrow it ain't dying
I'm talking about… it's living

--Lonesome Dove

This may be hard to swallow but it's true. After 40 years of digesting the lessons, the truth has hit my X-ring.

Sniper school is not about killing, but rather
about living. The things that you do to stay alive as a sniper are also the [s]kills that will enhance your life in any environment.

[1] Rule #1: Do no harm. Keep your fire within the range markers and only apply your skills to legitimate targets. In war, as in life.

[2] Have empathy even for the target. Army Leadership FM 6-22 states, "All Army team members, Soldiers and civilians alike, must have a basis of . . . Empathy."

Tao Tan's paper, "The Nobility of the Warrior" cites Mencius who said that the quality of empathy made a warrior noble, which led to a sense first of shame, next propriety and ultimately, a sense of right and wrong.

Tan continues, empathy restrains a warrior from mindless violence by appealing to his emotion; eventually, this evolves into a sense of right versus wrong by appealing to his wisdom. By maintaining his nobility and civility even in the backdrop of combat, "a soldier may carry on the search for his own humanity."

Ranger had a friend (a Special Forces Medal of Honor recipient) who would laugh about gut-shooting soldiers, which he did often. This means they suffered before they died, as opposed to receiving a chest shot. This is not soldierly conduct, and it has no place on the battlefield. Compassion must be present even in combat.

[3] Be technically and tactically proficient.

[4] An extension of #3: Fancy gear is not necessary. A simple, well-built bolt gun will do the trick if you know its capability. Many a Vietcong sniper killed with an antiquated 1891/30 rifle.
What is important is the maintenance of your equipment. Care and cleaning is necessary, as well as a total familiarity with its performance characteristics.
Always have an auxiliary weapon.

[5] Care extends to the maintenance of one's person. A sniper neither consumes stimulants nor depressants. He does not wear products with scents -- soaps, after-shave or insect repellant. He does not smoke.

[6] Technical proficiency also means controlling your fear and adrenaline response, as calmness is required for precision shooting. Stay calm in the pursuit. Surveil your target in depth and detail. Be patient and realistic. Know the situation's -- and your --limitations.

[7] Tactically, never move unless necessary -- movement is your enemy. Stay low and subdued. Move slowly, blend; use cover and concealment. When you move, always approach your target directly. Do not be ambivalent. Do not move laterally, thereby exposing yourself to detection and hostile fires.

[8] Always have an escape route.

[9] Always use worst-case planning. If you plan for the worst, then all else will fall into place. Be prepared for any eventuality.

[10] Travel light. (Our photojournalist friend Zoriah recently wrote a nice piece on this one HERE.

All points may seem to indicate restraint, but they are all in preparation for the main activity: You will never make the kill unless you take the shot. You must pull the trigger. Every shot is the center of your existence. All shots require equal concentration, even the close shots. Everything comes down to making a successful shot.

Disregarding this last rule leads to failure at every level. It is not the shots that you miss but the shots that you do not take that will lead to mission failure. It's the shots you did not take that will haunt you.

Those are my life lessons and they are equivalent to 28.7 grains of IMR 3031 pushing a 168 gr Sierra out of match-grade barrel. Ranger is thankful he never had to put cross hairs on a man.

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Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

To all,
The recent "massacre" in AFGH proves the point of this article,which was written before the event.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 8:40:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger basilbeast said...

As far as I know, there still is uncertainty as to how many troops actually did the shooting or provided support.

I think I can understand, but still is hard for me to correlate empathy with taking a life, an action the point of which may remain unknown to the killer.


Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 2:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Humanity and all that is hard to reconcile with the concept of killing. Maybe i hold this line to preserve what's left of my sanity.
Next time around i'm gonna be a pisces again.

Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 9:53:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Blackhawk said...

The recent "massacre" in AFGH proves the point of this article,which was written before the event.

Jim could you elaborate here....I can't comment if I read this wrong. thanks

Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 11:09:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


As soldiers, we must maintain our humanity and our empathy, even in combat environments.

Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 3:52:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Blackhawk said...

Well you know Ranger that sounds nice but in periods of extended combat or mortal threat a lot of nasty things can happen, flipping out is one. On one hand I know of a guy that stood up in the middle of brutal firefight because he lost his will to live. A 38 year old married Staff sergeant with 3-4 tours and 3 kids is not a typical cold blooded killer.

Yet that ass Panetta announces to the world he might face the death penalty. I don't know all the facts, but I do know what happens in combat and it ain't chivalry.

My medic friend and I were talking about it yesterday, his reply was It wouldn't have made the news in Vietnam or for that matter Korea, WWII and so on...... In WWII they had a name for it old sergeants disease.

Yes it is fucked, it's a tragedy. But they are going to try the wrong guy. Who are the ones that made this possible. Hiding under a desk

Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 4:22:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Whenever the US leaders are around our troops we strip the troops of their weapons -- SOP.

The exception is the personal security details (PSDs). I think they are safe to be armed because we probably keep their families as hostages.


Friday, March 16, 2012 at 10:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

FDChief said:

Well...it DID happen in Vietnam and Korea, and when it did (such as My Lai and the Korean refugee shootins like No Gun Ri -though the Korean War incidents look more like pure confusion and fear than deliberate murders) in a time period when the press was less embedded it made the papers.

I think - and I've posted on this issue specifically - that the real problem this story points out about the Umpteenth Afghan War is not that bad shit happens in combat or that sometimes good people lose it after seeing too much war, but that even after ten years in country we don't "get it".

If this mission is important - and people like Panetta claim it is - and its worth the lives of the guys we kill and those of us who die, then there shouldn't be a question of the "death penalty"; this poor bastard SSG should have been given a quick drumhead court-martial (since he pretty much 'fessed straight up), a nice last meal, then led out into the village square and shot.

Because right now it looks like we care more for his rights than for the people he killed (which, for our sake's, we do and should - he's one of ours, they weren't) and in a foreign occupation the occupied have to believe the opposite. They have to believe that you will punish your own troops savagely for any break in discipline - otherwise you'll get a countryside crawling with G's convinced that it's worth dying to kill your soldiers because your soldiers will kill them anyway.

That's a shitty way to fight, but that's how it works. If we don't like it, we should stop playing the imperial game.

If we were an honest country, people like Panetta would come out and say that, tell the public, and then let them vote on whether or not we want to be Roman or not.

I agree with you that the high-ranking bastards who got us into this should be tried. But We the People have let them or encouraged them to do this.

What's our responsibility?

Friday, March 16, 2012 at 11:31:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Blackhawk said...

What is our collective responsibility for this massacre or the whole Afghan Romeo Foxtrot ? The answer lies with the Kissingers, Cheney's, Perles who have been working out this war game for the last 30 years. 'The Great Game', as the 19th century 'Brits' called it.

Our do nothing Congress that sat on it's ass for 60 years and abrogated our rights as citizens, and allowed this Country to be stolen from us right under our nose. Our Presidents are shills for the Goldmans and JP Morgans of this Country. The media and the educational system march in lockstep, parting from 18th century wisdom of Thomas Paine's 'Common Sense' to a pixilated playstation 'Max Payne' and the American Idol. Junk in junk out.

I am old enough to remember Truman's 'the Buck stops here' reminder on the oval office desk. I also aware of the of the sit-rep today, that buck never stops anywhere till the printing presses run out of ink.

If they succeed in hanging out this soldier to dry without pointing out his actions and state of mind are the certain result of our failure to bring any sanity to the table in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 1:40:00 PM GMT-5  

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