FORT HOOD, Texas – An ear-piercing crack echoes throughout the
landscape with the sound of a projectile ricocheting off of a metal
Silence returns, yet the source of the interrupting
sound remains undetected as the wind blows through the tall grass.
The recon section with the Headquarters and Headquarters
Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat
Team, 1st Cavalry Division allowed infantryman and scouts within the
battalion to compete for spots in the sniper platoon and for an
opportunity to attend sniper school.
A Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Division, 3rd Brigade
Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, tries to blend in with his
environment on April 4, 2014 at Fort Hood, Texas. A mixture of
infantrymen and scouts within the battalion competed for spots in
the sniper section of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company and
an opportunity to attend sniper school. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt.
Brandon Banzhaf, 3rd BCT PAO, 1st Cavalry Division)
“We are looking for Soldiers who are motivated and are
able to absorb all of the information,” said Staff Sgt.
Richard Uerling, the noncommissioned officer in charge of
the sniper section at the Headquarters and Headquarters
Company. “They need to push themselves and pour out
everything they've got.”
The intent of the sniper
section tryout is to find the six most physically and
mentally fit Soldiers in the battalion and make them a part
of an efficient small unit reconnaissance team. The
competition spanned two days consisting of classes and
practical examinations on the key fundamentals of being a
The Soldiers' first
physical test was the Ranger Physical Assessment.
competitors conducted two minutes each of pushups, situps,
and pullups. Instead of the Army Physical Fitness Test's
standard two-mile run, competitors had to run five miles
within 40 minutes.
“To get through this and the rest
of the competition, you have to push yourself,” said Pvt.
Dominque Davis, a Bloomington, Ind., native and infantryman
with Company A. “I'm going to explore my strengths and
weaknesses and build off of them to help me get selected.”
During the physical test, instructors evaluated their
level of motivation as they completed each event.
“I'm looking for drive,” said Uerling. “You can see who
wants to be here by watching them run the five miles. I want
to see them give it their all and have nothing left in the
tank when they are done.”
After a brief pause for
personal hygiene and breakfast, the instructors transported
the Soldiers to a designated training area to teach them the
fundamentals of being a sniper.
The infantryman and
scouts who competed for a spot in the sniper section were
afforded the opportunity to become familiar using the M14
Enhanced Battle Rifle.
“The EBR is less forgiving
than the M4, so you need to focus on the fundamentals more,”
said Spc. Earnest Thompson, a Wichita, Kan., native and a
scout for 2-7. “I saw how a small mistake makes a bigger
difference with the EBRs.”
themselves with the rifle, the Soldiers learned skills
associated with collecting data on a battlefield.
“Reconnaissance is one of the sniper's goals,” said Uerling.
“They need to be able to report exactly what they see down
to the smallest detail to their commander.”
Soldier's ability to determine the distance between his
location and his target is one of the most common tasks for
a member of a reconnaissance team. Snipers use binoculars or
their weapon's scope to determine the distance of a
potential target for intelligence gathering or for taking a
The Soldiers' task was to determine the
distances of five individual targets using a scope,
calculator, pen and paper.
“These classes teach the
skills that are in the sniper's manual,” said Uerling.
“Everything is by the book.”
In addition to
determining distance, the instructors taught the Soldiers
about sketching sectors. They had to conduct a battlefield
analysis by drawing an accurate picture of the simulated
battlefield, providing as much detail as possible.
“This is a great competition,” said Spc. Andrew Hornick, a
Louisville, Ohio, native and a scout with HHC. “I'll get so
much out of it, even if I don't make the cut. Everything I'm
learning during all of these classes, I can apply these
skills in my current [military occupational specialty].”
In addition to battlefield analysis and data collection,
they had to learn the procedures to report details using a
Soldiers had to properly describe specific
details of a simulated enemy presence. They reported
details, such as the size of the enemy unit, enemy activity,
location, time spotted, and equipment used.
data collection and reporting are important, it is most
vital that the sniper is not seen.
learned to apply proper camouflage for the given
environment. This includes applying face paint, camouflage
to their weapons, and donning a ghillie suit; a garment that
helps snipers to disappear into the brush.
to ensure you don't cast shadows on your face,” said Uerling.
“You can use light colors on the darker parts of your face
and darker colors on the lighter parts.”
mixture of different colored paint smeared across the sniper
candidates' faces, the lesson in becoming nearly invisible
was just beginning.
“Applying the camo paint was
fun,” said Pvt. Cody Foltz, an infantryman with Company A.
“There is more to it than just wiping the paint on. You have
to think about not leaving shadows or dark spots.”
Then the candidates had to find twigs, branches and anything
else they could find to attach to their suits and rifles.
“The black parts on the weapon can give you away easily
and render your camouflage useless,” said Uerling.
Ultimately, the students had to compile everything they
learned in the two days of the competition. They were
evaluated on their physical and mental abilities, attention
to detail and patience.
All of this training was put to
test in the final event - stalking.
Stalking is when a
sniper slowly crawls into position from a long distance
Sniper candidates stalked to within 400 meters
of a target, verified a displayed number on the target, and
then attempted to evacuate without being seen.
want to experience the feeling when you can see someone
through the scope, and they don't have a clue you are
there,” said Spc. Bryan Fife, a Tehachapi, Calif., native
and scout for HHC. “It's a great feeling to hit the target
at an incredible distance with an incredible weapon.”
Hours passed as two spotters peered through high-powered
range finders, scanning the landscape in search of student
Spotters used another instructor, called the
“walker,” and by radio communication directed him to a
potentially hiding sniper.
The walker gave no visual
signs of a located sniper but only confirmed if there was a
sniper at his feet after the spotter directed him to a
Only a few snipers were able to
successfully elude the spotter-walker team to pass the last
“They need to become one with the bush,” said
Uerling. “This is a test where a sniper earns his pay.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf
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