The reconnaissance section with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, allowed infantrymen and scouts within the battalion to compete for spots in the sniper platoon and for an opportunity to attend sniper school.
“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 company’s sniper section. “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 sniper.
The soldiers’ first physical test was the Ranger Physical Assessment.
“To get through this and the rest of the competition, you have to push yourself,” said Pvt. Dominque Davis, an infantryman. “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,” Uerling said. “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.”
The instructors then transported the soldiers to a training area to teach them the fundamentals of being a sniper.
The infantryman and scouts who competed for a spot in the sniper section became familiar using the M-14 Enhanced Battle Rifle.
“This is a great competition,” said Spc. Andrew Hornick, a scout. “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).”
Sniper candidates also 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.
“You have to ensure you don’t cast shadows on your face,” Uerling said. “You can use light colors on the darker parts of your face and darker colors on the lighter parts.”
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 away.
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.
Hours passed as two spotters peered through high-powered range finders, scanning the landscape in search of student snipers.
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 certain spot.
Only a few snipers were able to successfully elude the spotter-walker team to pass the last event.
“They need to become one with the bush,” Uerling said. “This is a test where a sniper earns his pay.”