College Papers/Sniper Coward or Hero college paper 14347

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Since the invention of the firearm, skilled individuals with

specialized equipment have influenced the ebb and flow of the

battlefield. At times this influence has been so great as to

turn the tide of history. The long-range sharpshooter or

sniper has had a telling effect on the direction, drive, and

scope of battle. The sniper has felled the command structure

of his enemies, rendered their equipment useless, and driven

fear into the heart of the men. Thus, the sniper is one of the

most effective weapons on the field of battle. A true sniper

is an operative who gathers intelligence for the command

structure and occasionally takes the one, well-aimed shot that,

if done properly, will save lives. In order to better

understand exactly how snipers are valuable, one needs to

consider their mission, training, and equipment. The sniper^s

primary mission is to deliver long range, precision fire on key

targets and targets of opportunity. His secondary mission is

the collection and reporting of information. Both missions are

very specific and dangerous. To carry out these missions, a

sniper must be highly trained in marksmanship and field craft

skills to ensure maximum effectiveness with minimum risk

(Lanning 88-100). The U. S. Army Sniper School is five weeks

of intense training. Before a student can even be considered

for attendance to sniper school, he must meet stringent

qualifications and pass a mental examination. Classes are

usually small, but have a high failure rate. The first week

consists of physical training and classroom instruction,

concentrating on the construction of a Ghillie Suit, which is

a special hand made form of camouflage (Sasser 215). The

second, third, and fourth weeks are composed of practical

exercises and tests covering everything taught during week

one. Emphasis is placed on developing stalking skills.

Stalking is the term used when a sniper maneuvers into his

final firing position (Lanning 159). After the fourth week

and all the field orientated tests have been completed, the

students that are left, participate in a four day field

training exercise which is run as a real life mission. The

students form two-man teams. One is the sniper and the other

is his spotter. The spotter^s main function is to observe a

target and provide data to the shooter. The spotter must also

be fully sniper qualified and trained to carry out the

mission. The team receives an operation order, which explains

its first mission or objective. The team must then plan its

routes of movement and places for final firing positions. As

they complete each objective, it receives another mission

through its radio. For the entire four days, the sniper team

is on the move, completing a series of missions. This series

of real missions is sniper school^s version of a final exam.

Graduation is not the end of the sniper^s training process.

The sniper must constantly practice and update his skills !

(Lanning 159 - 161).

Ultimately, all sniper training begins with an orientation of

sniper weapon systems (Lanning 159). The sniper uses either

a bolt-action rifle or a semi-automatic rifle. Most snipers

use the bolt-action, since it is extremely dependable,

accurate, and simple to use. The spotter uses a semi-automatic

rifle with a grenade launcher and a handgun, which is better

for close-range combat. He usually has two types of field

optics, binoculars and a spotting scope (Eric n.p.). Ernest

Hemingway once pointed out: "There is no hunting like the hunting of

man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it,

never care for anything else thereafter" (Henderson n.p.). Thus, it

takes a special kind of person to be able to carry out sniper

missions. Performing most of his work behind enemy lines, a sniper is

a force multiplier whose abilities should be praised and not

condemned (Mel n.p.). Any consideration of the level of courage

necessary for a sniper begins and ends with Gunnery Sergeant Carlos

Hathcock. The book, Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills, by Charles

Henderson, covers the exploits and life of Hathcock and allows the

reader to relive the dangers and victories of this famous Marine

(Henderson xi - xiv). The book^s clearest picture of the courage

necessary to be a sniper is found in the description of Hathcock^s

stalk of a North Vietnamese Army [NVA] general (Henderson 186).

This particular stalk covered over 2000 meters of flat ground with

nothing more than two feet high grass for cover and concealment.

Carlos Hathcock crawled inches per minute and yards per hour for two

days and three nights to cover a distance that could be walked by a

man at normal speed in ten minutes. The entire time Hathcock was

moving into his final firing position, enemy patrols were walking all

around him. One NVA soldier even brushed Carlos^s leg as he walked

past the sniper hiding in the grass. On the morning of the fourth

day, without having eaten any food and having had very little water,

Carlos finally made it into the right spot, some 800 meters from the

target area. Carlos Hathcock then killed the NVA general, and

successfully exited his final firing position to escape the furious

search for him. A coward could not have accomplished this mission;

only an extremely skilled and very brave man could have done such a

thing (Henderson 186-202).

Snipers can be extremely efficient. In Vietnam, the average

soldier used 200,000 bullets per kill. The average for a

sniper was 1.3 rounds per kill. However, snipers suffered

tremendous casualties during World War II. The Fifth Army

snipers in Italy lost up to 80 percent and the Twenty-fourth

Marine division had nine snipers alive out of it original

twenty-four at the end of the battle of Iwo Jima (Sasser

21). However, it was reported by the U.S. News & World

Reports, that of the 600 snipers trained by Carlos Hathcock in

Vietnam, only one was killed in combat (Laning 203). The

sniper has special abilities, training, and equipment. His job

is to deliver discriminatory, highly accurate rifle fire

against enemy targets that cannot be engaged successfully by

the regular rifleman because of range, size, location, fleeting

nature, or visibility. Sniping requires the development of

basic infantry skills to a high degree of perfection. A

sniper^s training incorporates a wide variety of subjects

designed to increase his value as a force multiplier and to

ensure his survival on the battlefield. The art of sniping

requires learning and repetitiously practicing these skills

until mastered.

Works Cited

"Eric." Sniper Information Page. Online. AOL.

http://www.angelfire.com/ma/sniper312/snipeinfo.html. (2 Feb. 1999).

Lanning, Michael Lee. Inside the Crosshairs. New York: Ballantine, 1998.

Henderson, Charles. Marine Sniper. New York: Berkley, 1988.

"Mel." Mel^Ã’s Sniper Page. Online. AOL.

Http://www.imt.net/~mel/index.html. (2 Mar. 1999).

Sasser, Charles W., and Craig Roberts. One Shot-One Kill. New York: Pocket Books,

1990.

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