In our sights

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ashley Sokolov
  • 90th Missile Wing

Locate and identify target. Estimate range. Estimate wind speed and direction.

Adjust body, weapon, elevation and parallax.

Inhale, relax.

Aim. Exhale.                                                                  

Squeeze trigger. Call shot.

For a month, two instructors from the Fort Benning, Ga., United States Army Sniper Course assisted the Nuclear Advanced Designated Marksman Course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo.

“When dealing with the next threat, the Air Force, Marines, Navy and Army could find themselves working together in teams in the same environment,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, 199th Infantry Brigade United States Army Sniper Course instructor. “For us, having that same terminology, talking the same lingo will make us a lot more effective on the battlefield.”

Camp Guernsey NADM instructors are putting their course at the forefront of lethality training for Air Force snipers. They are reaching out to similar courses to gather information and create an optimal course for qualifying students.

“This course has started with 21 people and has ended with 21 people,” said Staff Sgt. Cordero Patraw, 90th Ground Combat Training Squadron course leader. “It’s the first time we have had a 100 percent pass rate.”

The NADM sniper graduates have mastered the understanding of external ballistics and the science of bullet flight. Combining the knowledge allows them to deliver that devastating shot to targets at extended ranges.

“Their success in the NADM course comes from four weeks of practice and knowing how to apply the skills they learned to become deadly Airmen,” said Rance.

The current course starts with a focus on field craft, range estimation and target detection. Those maneuvers are followed by stalking and infiltration exercises, and known distance shots on a range.

Lastly, the course wraps up testing individuals’ gained knowledge of external ballistics and science of bullet flight. To test the students, the last day starts with a ruck march to strain muscles and nerves followed by their final shot.

“Their final shot is a timed test,” said Patraw. “The student has to get into position, estimate an unknown distance, then engage a stationary hostile target within one degree of friendly forces.”

With big goals, the course is looking to expand their abilities to include additional training for day and night operations for counter sniper exercises and aerial interdiction sniper teams, as well as, a seven-day winter expansion course to cover tactics in inclement weather for trained snipers. 

“These are not included in the US Marine Corps or Army courses,” said Patraw. “Having these things would set us apart from existing courses, which would allow for attendance from all of the Department of Defense.”

The students leave the course as a trained sniper, qualified on two weapon systems, with the opportunity to attend a potential five to seven-day winter course.

“We took a lot of things from our Army course, tested some new stuff out, and created the most lethal sniper class the Air Force has ever produced,” said Rance.