Training to be a sniper involves much more than shooting.
Marksmanship is essential to sniper training. Every Army sniper must be an outstanding shot. However, there are a number of other skills that are important for a sniper. The ability to move undetected into a position of observation and remain there for up to a week is also vital. Communicating relevant information, watching positions and people, ordering indirect fire missions or aircraft bombing or strafing runs, and remaining concealed are all much needed skills. Of course, hitting a specific target with a sniper rifle is also part of the package. Lastly, the ability to leave the “hide sight” and return to a safe place is critical. These are all skills that are needed in the training of an army sniper.
Entering Sniper School
Physical fitness is important to the sniper.
Snipers have to meet a number of criteria just to enter the Army Sniper School. They must be volunteers, have vision that is 20/20 or correctable to that, must score 70 percent or higher on the Army Physical Fitness Test, must be able to capable of working in adverse conditions alone for long periods of time, and they must pass psychological evaluation tests, among other requirements.
Training to Observe
Observation is an essential sniper skill.
Army Sniper School lasts five weeks and grows more intense with each week. An emphasis is placed on physical training and being able to work with limited amounts of rest. Observation skills are an important need of the sniper. Once inside a hide sight, the sniper becomes extremely familiar with their surroundings. After a period of time, the sniper understands what is normal activity for that area and what is out of the ordinary. Information regarding observations is relayed back to base, so good communication skills are needed. Direct action, such as firing on a target, is always a possibility.
The sniper is trained to be invisible in rural or urban terrain.
Camouflage is essential to the successful sniper. The type of camouflage varies greatly depending on the terrain where the sniper needs to be concealed. In rural terrain, snipers wear camouflage suits known as “ghillie suits.” The ghillie suit is adorned with local leaves, plants, branches, and other things that will allow the sniper to slowly stalk into position. In urban terrain camouflage is entirely different. The sniper would want to blend in with the local surroundings without being noticed or sneak into position under the cover of darkness. The army trains each sniper to adapt to a particular environment.
Calling in Fire Missions
The sniper can destroy targets that would not be harmed by a bullet.
Calling in fire missions from artillery, mortars, or aircraft is another type of training that adds to the value of a sniper. When a target is acquired, the sniper can call in a location to base where other weapons can be used. This allows the sniper to remain concealed but destroy a much larger enemy force than he could do with only a rifle. This skill is needed and valuable.
Sniper training is comprehensive.
The basic army sniper rifle is a bolt-action .308 caliber. Every sniper is an expert shot with this weapon and the additional marksmanship training received is extensive. Many shots are fired down-range with this weapon before a sniper candidate sees his first action. The rifle is equipped with a 10 x 42 Leupold telescopic sight and has a range of 800 meters. Accurate fire with a rifle is important for a sniper, but his duties involve much more training than simply marksmanship. A wide variety of skills is needed to become a sniper.