Big, bad wolf? Big, bad wolf?
Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?
--Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Snipers will play a prominent role as the military reshapes itself into a more agile force after Iraq and Afghanistan. In a new strategy unveiled in January, the Pentagon said it planned on building a smaller, more expeditionary military force and would expand America's capabilities to train indigenous forces over the next several years.
The ability to shoot is not coincident with the ability to teach. Snipers at the PFC level are not qualified instructors. It is doubtful that E5 and 6 level can execute instructor duty for training indigenous forces.
In recent years, snipers have been armed with handheld ballistic computers that calculate the effects of air pressure and other atmospherics on a bullet's trajectory. Optics and rifles have also improved accuracy. The Marine Corps assembles its own bolt-action sniper rifles to exacting standards here at Quantico.
We in Marksmanship have been building sniper bolt guns since at least 1965. Army Marksmanship units developed the XM21 Sniper System. None of today's activities vary from the historic footprint.
Snipers are not the only ones who can kill a target at 1,200 yards. At the Infantry Battalion level the Army has numerous ways to kill people at that distance.
Typically, a well-equipped sniper in World War II could be expected to hit a human target with a single shot at about 600 yards in favorable conditions and during daylight. Today, snipers can typically hit targets at twice that range — from more than half a mile away — and at night, said Bryan Litz, a ballistics expert at Berger Bullets who has done military contract work.
"They're a small niche that can really wreak havoc on the enemy," said Clarke Lethin, a retired Marine officer who was on the staff of the unit that conducted the negotiations in Fallujah. "Our snipers were very effective when we were trying to bring terrorists to the table."
Now for the muddled thinking -- earlier in the piece, the foe was insurgents; now, it is terrorists. What were the opposition forces in Fallujah -- insurgents, enemy or terrorists? Just one year after the Marine's fight in Fallujah, these very same men were carrying rifles and were paid, trained and equipped by United States. From pond scum to the Great Hadji Hope of U.S. strategic dreams in one year.
Students in the Army's five-week course learn complex formulas designed to predict how a bullet's trajectory will be changed slightly by the atmosphere. When firing long distances, wind variations and barometric pressure can knock a bullet off course. Bullets travel faster at high altitudes where there is less resistance in the thin air.
In the 1960's and 70's, soldiers reporting for sniper training were experts before they reported for duty.
"You're going to need to read his body language" ... "[T]hat Marine on the ground observing through those optics is going to be able to make out somebody who seems nervous or seems out of place."
We are training soldiers to recognize and kill people who are nervous or seem out of place. However, in a climate of suspicion and anxiety, how do some tics add up to a death sentence? Are soldiers now going to go through psychoanalytic training to become proficient in reading body language?
Since the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) commenced we have been fed a steady ration of how everything has changed since the events of 9-11-01, and everything we throw at the threats are new and improved. But this claim does not hold up under scrutiny.
In the Old Infantry trophy rifle matches fired with the service rifle, targets were shot at 400, 500 and 600 yards and were fired over iron sights. Back then, everyone qualified at 200, 300, 500 and 600 yards. We no longer train our soldiers that intensely or extensively.
There was a scene in the documentary "Generation Kill" in which an enemy fighter was seen at 175 yards distant. The Platoon leader then called for the sniper who then unloaded all of his gear and proceeded to shoot the enemy into paradise.
This was achieved while the rest of the platoon looked on dumbly when any one of them could have done the same thing with his M-4. This was a historically correct and instructive scene; the sniper was superfluous.Exotic, but superfluous all the same.