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Posted: 1/1/2004 7:01:19 PM EDT
In Iraq's Murky Battle, Snipers Offer U.S. a Precision Weapon
By ERIC SCHMITT

Published: January 2, 2004


AMARRA, Iraq, Dec. 28 — The intimate horror of the guerrilla war here in Iraq seems most vivid when seen through the sights of a sniper's rifle.

In an age of satellite-guided bombs dropped at featureless targets from 30,000 feet, Army snipers can see the expression on a man's face when the bullet hits.

"I shot one guy in the head, and his head exploded," said Sgt. Randy Davis, one of about 40 snipers in the Army's new 3,600-soldier Stryker Brigade, from Fort Lewis, Wash. "Usually, though, you just see a dust cloud pop up off their clothes, and see a little blood splatter come out the front."

Working in teams of two or three, Army snipers here in Iraq cloak themselves in the shadows of empty city buildings or burrow into desert sands with camouflage suits, waiting to fell guerrilla gunmen and their leaders with a single shot from as far as half a mile away.

As the counterinsurgency grinds into its ninth month, the Army is increasingly relying on snipers to protect infantry patrols sweeping through urban streets and alleyways, and to kill guerrilla leaders and disrupt their attacks.

"Properly employed, we can break the enemy's back," said Sergeant Davis, 25, who is from Murfreesboro, Tenn. "Our main targets are their main command and control elements and other high-value targets."

Soldiering is a violent business, and emotions in combat run high. But commanders say snipers are a different breed of warrior — quiet, unflappable marksmen who bring a dispassionate intensity to their deadly task.

"The good ones have to be calm, methodical and disciplined," said Lt. Col. Karl Reed, who commands the Stryker Brigade's Fifth Battalion, 20th Infantry, Sergeant Davis's parent unit.

In the month since he arrived here on his first combat tour, Sergeant Davis already has eight confirmed kills — including seven in a single day — and two "probables."

He and his partner, Specialist Chris Wilson, who has one confirmed kill, do not brag about their feats. Their words reflect a certain icy professionalism instilled in men who say they take no pleasure in killing, and try not to see their Iraqi foes as men with families and children.

"You don't think about it," said Specialist Wilson, 24, of Muncie, Ind., speaking at an austere base camp near here after a late-afternoon mission. "You just think about the lives of the guys to your left and right."

Sergeant Davis nodded in agreement: "As soon as they picked up a weapon and tried to engage U.S. soldiers, they forfeited all their rights to life, is how I look at it."

All soldiers are trained to destroy an opponent, but snipers have honed the art of killing to a fine edge. At a five-week training course at Fort Benning, Ga., they learn to stalk their prey, conceal their own movements, spot telltale signs of an enemy shooter and take down a target with a lone shot.

To qualify for the school, a soldier must already be an expert marksman, pass a physical examination and undergo a psychological screening ("To make sure they're not training a nut," Sergeant Davis said.) The rigorous course fails more than half of its students.

The demand for snipers is great enough that the Army has sent a team of trainers to Iraq to keep churning out new ones for the war effort here and in other hot spots.

As the Army faces more conflicts in which terrorists use the tight confines of city blocks and rooftops to stage hit-and-run strikes, the sniper school has placed increasing emphasis on urban tactics. That makes sense in places like this city of 250,000 people, a hotbed of Saddam Hussein supporters 65 miles northwest of Baghdad.

The training paid off on Dec. 18. Dusk was setting in here, and Sergeant Davis was wrapping up a counter-sniper mission when he spotted an armed Iraqi on a rooftop about 300 yards away. He said he knew the gunman was a sniper by the way he sneaked along the roofline to track a squad below from Sergeant Davis's Company B.

"The guy made a mistake when he silhouetted himself against the rooftop," said Sergeant Davis, who has 20/10 vision. "He was trying to look over to see where the guys were in the courtyard."

As the gunman rose from the shadows to fire, Sergeant Davis said he saw his head and then the distinctive shape of a Dragonov SVD Russian-made sniper rifle. The sergeant drew a bead on the shooter with his weapon of choice, an M-14 rifle equipped with a special optic sight that has crosshairs and a red aiming dot.

"I went ahead and engaged him and shot him one time to the chest," he said, matter of factly. "I watched him kick back, his rifle flew back, and I saw a little blood come out of his chest. It was a good hit."

Three days earlier, Company B walked into an ambush in downtown Samarra in which gunmen on motorcycles used children leaving school as cover to attack the patrol. Sergeant Davis, armed this time with an M-4 rifle, shot 7 of the 11 attackers that American commanders say died in the 45-minute skirmish.

"We don't have civilian casualties," the sergeant said of how he avoided the schoolchildren. "Everything you hit, you know exactly what it is. You know where every round is going."

In city or desert, Army snipers spend hours planning and setting up their positions, often under cover of darkness. "We don't have the capability to survive a sustained firefight," the sergeant said. "We use surprise and stealth to accomplish missions."

Army snipers generally choose from four different weapons, depending on the mission. The standard M-24 sniper rifle is simple in design. It has an adjustable Kevlar stock, a thick stainless steel barrel, a mounted telescopic, day/night scope and is bolt action, rather than semiautomatic, like other sniper rifles. It sets up on a bipod and fires 7.62-millimeter ammunition, hitting targets up to 1,000 yards away.

In the desert, snipers wrap plastic bags or condoms over the gun muzzle to keep the sand out. They carry their weapons in padded green canvas bags. "We baby the hell out of them," Sergeant Davis said.

Most snipers are familiar with firearms even before joining the armed forces. Sergeant Davis and Specialist Wilson grew up on farms, and both owned their first rifles before they were 10. They fondly remember hunting deer as youngsters.

Both men are married and have children, and say they do not talk much about their work outside their tight-knit clan. "We try to get away from stereotypes that you're a psychotic gun nut running around, like the guy in D.C., or like in the movies, a cool-guy assassin," Sergeant Davis said.

There are not many targets these men dread, but in the shifting battlefield of Iraq, where seemingly everyone is armed, one candidate emerges. Would they ever shoot a child who aimed at them?

"I couldn't imagine that," said Specialist Wilson, a father of five.

But Sergeant Davis had a different view: "I'd shoot him, otherwise he'd shoot me. But I wouldn't feel good about it."



Link Posted: 1/1/2004 7:18:08 PM EDT
But Sergeant Davis had a different view: "I'd shoot him, otherwise he'd shoot me. But I wouldn't feel good about it."
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Why is this such a shocking comment?  why does the media have to ask such questions?  A 10y/o can fire an AK the same as a 30 y/o.  Fuck it, if anybody would try to shoot at my Helicopter they'd get the high rate from the mini.  I don't care how old ya are or if you've got indoor or outdoor plumbing.  
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 7:26:05 PM EDT
Yea how does that statement go: Mr Sniper what did you feel when the 10 yr old with the AK starting running towards you? Snipers response: I felt recoil.. the recoil of my Rifle.
           FREE
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 7:34:16 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/1/2004 7:35:13 PM EDT by raven]
HELLO MCFLY!  What happened to the idea of due process and a trial by jury?  Who do these  twentysomething grunts think htey are? How do they figure thinking they're judge, jury, and executioner?  My god, what have we become?
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 7:43:43 PM EDT
Thread #4...
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 7:47:07 PM EDT
[b]Three days earlier, Company B walked into an ambush in downtown Samarra in which gunmen on motorcycles used children leaving school as cover to attack the patrol. Sergeant Davis, armed this time with an M-4 rifle, shot 7 of the 11 attackers that American commanders say died in the 45-minute skirmish.[/b]

Someone buy that man a steak dinner!
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 7:50:23 PM EDT
My dad heard a statistic about WWII.  I don't know where he heard it, probably dateline NBC or something like that, but he heard that only about 40% of the soldiers in WWII actually shot directly at a human target.

Have you guys ever heard that before?

Maybe I worded that wrong.   It wasn't that only 40% of the soldiers shot their weapon, it was that most of the people in the war, whether they hit someone or not (which obviously they did), most of the shooting was in the general direction of an enemy combatant, and not specifically at someone's chest or head.

Obviously, snipers were in a different situation.  They had scopes.

Dad was skeptical when he heard it, and we were just talking about it one day at lunch, it's not something we actually researched.

I was just wondering if you folks had ever heard that before?

And if so, I wonder if it is the same or much different in Iraq right now.  I would assume Irag is much more personal then the giant war in the 1940s with 10's of millions of combatants.

I'm not trying to interupt your thread, just thought you might be interested, and would likely have more accurate info.

Thanks,
E (qiii)
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 8:12:38 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Qiii:
My dad heard a statistic about WWII.  I don't know where he heard it, probably dateline NBC or something like that, but he heard that only about 40% of the soldiers in WWII actually shot directly at a human target.

Have you guys ever heard that before?
View Quote


I've got a book called On Killing.  I remember reading some stats like that.  It had them for all wars up to Vietnam.  I'll look them up and post again.

DG84
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 8:18:40 PM EDT
Originally Posted By doorgunner84:
Why is this such a shocking comment?  why does the media have to ask such questions?  A 10y/o can fire an AK the same as a 30 y/o.  Fuck it, if anybody would try to shoot at my Helicopter they'd get the high rate from the mini.  I don't care how old ya are or if you've got indoor or outdoor plumbing.  
View Quote


Q - How can you kill women and children?

A - Lead them less.


If they are ashootin they are a combatant.  End of story.


Link Posted: 1/1/2004 8:22:37 PM EDT
Originally Posted By doorgunner84:
Originally Posted By Qiii:
My dad heard a statistic about WWII.  I don't know where he heard it, probably dateline NBC or something like that, but he heard that only about 40% of the soldiers in WWII actually shot directly at a human target.

Have you guys ever heard that before?
View Quote


I've got a book called On Killing.  I remember reading some stats like that.  It had them for all wars up to Vietnam.  I'll look them up and post again.

DG84
View Quote


I have read "On Killing" as well. IIRC the number of U.S. soldiers surveyed who admitted shooting with intent to kill was much lower than 40%, more like 15%.
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 9:01:30 PM EDT
- Do you shoot women and children?

-Sometimes.

-How can you shoot women and children?!

-Easy! You just don't lead 'em as much!
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 9:07:44 PM EDT
Originally Posted By raven:
HELLO MCFLY!  What happened to the idea of due process and a trial by jury?  Who do these  twentysomething grunts think htey are? How do they figure thinking they're judge, jury, and executioner?  My god, what have we become?
View Quote


Huh?
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 9:14:04 PM EDT
Originally Posted By raven:
HELLO MCFLY!  What happened to the idea of due process and a trial by jury?  Who do these  twentysomething grunts think they are?
View Quote


Licensed to kill and the pride of their generation.

How do they figure thinking they're judge, jury, and executioner?
View Quote


Get it straight, they're just executioners. No trial required

My god, what have we become?
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Proactive?
Link Posted: 1/1/2004 9:47:23 PM EDT
Originally Posted By raven:
HELLO MCFLY!   My god, what have we become?
View Quote


A country at WAR fighting for our survival.
Link Posted: 1/3/2004 5:53:48 AM EDT

good read !
Link Posted: 1/3/2004 6:01:16 AM EDT
Originally Posted By raven:
HELLO MCFLY!  What happened to the idea of due process and a trial by jury?  Who do these  twentysomething grunts think htey are? How do they figure thinking they're judge, jury, and executioner?  My god, what have we become?
View Quote


That is a soldiers job in a war zone, we are niether judge nor jury but we are the executioners.  The judge and jury are the national command authority, when they tell us to go forth and make war, we kill those who they decide to kill.
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