War does one thing well, it gives a new vocabulary for death.
One young man knew it front to back.
“You’ve caught the best weather in Portland,” he said. “Been too hot or too wet. Not like this.”
The weather? It’s a start. He was built thick, maybe six feet tall.
“Nice. After this I’m back in North Carolina for a while.”
“Not exactly. I’m consulting with other agencies at this time from Ft. Bragg.”
“Sure. I had you pegged as a government lawyer. The guy doing the law for the law has a good ring.”
He stretched his calves on the curb. “You’ve got the pegging part right. I’m a sniper.”
“A lifer?” I asked. I heard what he said.
“A sniper. I’m a sniper.”
Maybe it’s wrong, but I wanted to ask for his autograph.
“Sniper? Like a shooter?”
“Just like that.”
He told me the training and equipment he used. I didn’t ask if he’d killed anybody. He wasn’t saying if he did. What he did say was how heavy everything felt.
“How can anyone expect you to carry that?” I say.
He ran down the sort of guns he’s shot, the ones he liked, the ones he didn’t. He likes the M-14. He likes the .308 bullet.
Today’s snipers move into the field in teams of six. Four of them watch the perimeter, two set up a shot. The shooter and the spotter are both snipers. The spotter is usually the better sniper, the one with more field experience. He sets up for distance, wind, humidity, temperature.
He dials it in.
“Everyone’s usually pretty even in shooting? Everyone’s a good shot?” I ask.
“We’ve all gone through sniper school. We’re all snipers. We rotate the team jobs. You went to bootcamp, right? For me it was bootcamp, infantry, Ranger School, then Sniper School. Sniper School was hardest.”
“You like guns?”
“Believe it or not, the gun is the last thing. Some people shouldn’t have guns. The training and handling we did to get close to a gun feels about right, but anyone else can go to the store and pick one up? It’s all about the training. We had a guy in the cycle, a black guy from South Central, a gangbanger. We got together in different places later. This guy turned out better than most.”
“Better than you?”
“Close. I’ve got a brain to finger connection you can’t teach. We got together with other guys from our cycle and we asked the guy from LA to hold his pistol sideways like the old days. The guy is a former street thug, now he’s a sniper. He wouldn’t lay his piece over. We said we knew that’s how he used to do it. Not anymore. He wouldn’t do it. That’s the sort of training that sinks a hook in a man.”
PACKING LIST FOR SNIPER SCHOOL (from Special Operations.Com)
1. LBE w/ 2 AMMO POUCHES AND A FIRST AID POUCH
2. LARGE RUCKSACK COMPLETE w/ FRAME
3. 2 ONE QUART CANTEENS
4. PONCHO w/ PONCHO LINER
5. WATERPROOF BAG
6. CAMMO FACE PAINT
8. PADLOCK (KEY OR COMBINATION ) 2 EA
10. 5 SETS BDUs, SOCKS, AND T-SHIRTS (MINIMUM) (one pair will be rendered unservicable after training)
11. BDU CAPS (2)
12. BOOTS 2 PAIR (COMBAT or JUNGLE) (ONE PAIR WILL BE RENDERED UNSERVICEABLE BY THE END OF TRAINING)
13. 2 GRAY ARMY PT UNIFORMs COMPLETE W/RUNNING SHOES
14. SEASONAL MILITARY ATTIRE (GORTEX, POLYPROS,ETC.)
15. CIVILIAN CLOTHING (in good taste)
16. UNDERGARMENTS, TOILETRIES, ETC, AS NEEDED
17. EARPLUGS WITH CASE (2)
18. ENTRENCHING TOOL W/CARRIER
19. LENSATIC COMPASS
20. 2 PROTRACTORS
21. PENS / MECHANICAL PENCILS
22. 1 BOONIE HAT FOR GHILLIE SUIT