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Army Snipers Army Snipers


									                                                                                                            Army Snipers
                                                                                                            Callsign 66:
                                                                                                                                                                              by Tim Dunne

                                                                                                            The sniper has added to the chaos of battle and fog of war since the
                                                                                                            Boer War. A single bullet has halted the advance of enemy troops, con-
                                                                                                            fused battle plans and injected an additional level of fear into an adver-
                                                                                                            sary’s troops. As a constant factor in modern warfare, snipers have been
                                                                                                            the army’s most economical force multiplier.
                                                                                                                A true sniper rifle is a finely tuned, precisely accurate, long range
                                                                                                            firearm. Fluctuating variables come into play with every mission, such
                                                                                                            as wind speed and direction, trajectory, elevation, bullet grain, breath
                                                                                                            control – to name a few. As a result of these and other complicating
                                                                                                            factors, sniping has evolved into a very specialized science in military
                                                       PHOTO: CPL LOU PENNEY, 3 PPCLI BATTLE GROUP

                                                                                                            and law enforcement sectors.
                                                                                                                The sniper, the solitary soldier who fires from a concealed position
                                                                                                            and over often incredible distances, is a recognized expert at camou-
                                                                                                            flage, field craft, infiltration, surveillance, reconnaissance and observa-
                                                                                                            tion. The title, “sniper,” was introduced in the British colony of India in
                                                                                                            1824 for hunters who were skilled enough to kill a snipe, a camou-
                                                                                                            flaged, erratically-flying bird. During the American Civil War, the sniper
                                                                                                            was known as “skirmisher,” deployed as an individual soldier to protect
                                                                                                            advancing soldiers to prevent the enemy from flanking and breaking
                                                                                                            up the formation.

     The first military snipers were high-                                                           at CFB Gagetown’s Combat Training                  ground. “That’s where we are, undetected
landers with the Scottish Yeomanry Regi-                                                             Centre, within the Infantry School.                on the ground, and where we can inflict the
ment of the British Army’s Lovat Scouts,                                                                  Canadian doctrine defines the role for        greatest damage on the enemy,” says WO
who fought in the Second Boer War, 1899                                                              snipers as precision rifle firing at long range,   Girard. “It’s not by shooting a rifle, but by
to 1902. British Chief of Scouts, Major                                                              and forward observation. It is this forward        calling in accurate ordnance, even when the
Frederick Russell Burnham described them                                                             observation, calling in artillery missions and     enemy is out of our range. It’s our sniper
as “half wolf and half jackrabbit.” Lovat                                                            air strikes, that makes the Canadian sniper        who makes the call.”
Scouts were the first to wear Ghillie suits,                                                         relevant in operations other than war, such             Each Canadian infantry battalion has
the camouflage largely made from jute and                                                            as peacekeeping and peace enforcement              an 18-member sniper group based on the
burlap. All sides employed sharpshooters                                                             operations.                                        structure of an infantry platoon. It is called
during the First World War, but the German                                                                It’s natural to assume that either the        a “group,” because there is no officer. Each
Army, was particularly effective as they                                                             U.S. or Britain dominate the field, but that       has a warrant officer as the master sniper,
were the only nation to provide their                                                                would be to disregard Canada’s work,               and a storesman/driver, and two eight-
snipers with scoped rifles. The British                                                              which is both unique and among the most            member sections.
Army began to train their own snipers                                                                advanced in the world.                                  Normally, the unit master sniper (UMS)
when Major Hesketh Prichard founded the                                                                   Agile and flexible, “Snipers are the          sits with the commanding officer in all
First Army School of Sniping, Observation                                                            cheapest troops to deploy but are the              intelligence briefings and battle planning,
and Scouting in Linghem, France, in 1916.                                                            biggest force multipliers, and have a huge         so the UMS can advise how the snipers can
     Snipers served all belligerents of the                                                          impact on the ground,” asserts Warrant             make a contribution. “Right away,” says
Second World War in both European and                                                                Officer Patrice Girard, the chief master           WO Girard, “we can raise our hand and tell
Pacific theatres. Allied forces used the well-                                                       sniper of the Canadian Army. “Frequently           the CO ‘this is what we can do for you.’”
placed and concealed sniper to halt a                                                                we can have more of an impact with a                    This unique, close working relationship
German advance for a significant time,                                                               single two dollar round than a CF-18.”             makes the Canadian sniper profession very
often with a single, well-placed bullet.                                                                  In their observation role, Canadian           specific and very efficient. Each battalion
     The Canadian Army understands the                                                               snipers are able to deliver all the military       has two sniper sections, each section has
operational value of snipers and has estab-                                                          firepower – artillery, drones and CF-18 air-       two detachments of snipers, and each
lished an internationally- recognized centre                                                         craft – against an enemy such as the Tal-          detachment has two teams of snipers.
of excellence for training and employment                                                            iban, and all can be directed from the             Snipers deploy in pairs, one as the shooter

45   I   FrontLine Defence   I   Issue 4, 2011   I
and the other as the spotter. Normally, two                  This standardized training is critical to                            ficial for a leader learning to deploy a
are deployed together, but if it’s an indi-              ensure a standardized skillset throughout                                sniper team.
vidual he will always be within reach, or                the Army, says Major Sean Dwyer, Officer                             –   Use of force and rules of engagement.
have a fellow sniper from his detachment                 Commanding B Company at the Infantry                                     Candidates are exposed to the full spec-
covering him.                                            School. The Cell evaluates all new devel-                                trum of war, such as in Afghanistan, and
     “In Afghanistan we can deploy four,”                opments to determine the best options to                                 operations other than war, such as in the
explains WO Girard, describing how they                  maintain the Army’s high standard.                                       former Yugoslavia.
will sometimes deploy snipers in groups of                   Doctrinal changes are mandated by
                                                                                                                              –   Surveillance and counter-surveil-
four, two forward and two in support. “But               new technologies and tactics – ours and the
                                                                                                                                  lance exercises. This expertise sepa-
it’s still dangerous, so we count on UAVs                enemy’s. Each course is reviewed every
                                                                                                                                  rates Canadian Army snipers from their
[unmanned aerial vehicles] and other assets              several years, and occasionally significant                              colleagues of other nations. Snipers are
to protect our soldiers. Without those other             changes are necessary, but smaller changes                               trained to provide forward observation
assets it would not be safe being alone in               are communicated to the UMS on a                                         require extreme stealth. Surveillance and
what we call ‘the nowhere.’ That’s fre-                  monthly basis. For instance, if a sniper                                 counter-surveillance are integral in all
quently where we are, far away from                      reports that an element of doctrine isn’t                                phases of operations, including operations
everybody and on our own, so we have to                  clear, changes are immediate. Similarly,                                 other than war, peacekeeping and mis-
make sure that we have something to back                 observation of a change in Taliban tactics is                            cellaneous operations.
up our snipers. If we have to deploy one of              reported and receives expedited attention.
                                                                                                                              –   Forward observation. Train for indi-
our guys we want to make sure he is
                                                                                                                                  rect fire missions from simulated artillery
within range of our weapons.”                            Sniper Detachment
                                                                                                                                  and air strikes. Later, they send actual fire
     How far can our snipers engage an                   Commander Course                                                         missions to “the guns” and direct live fire.
enemy? There have been occasions when
                                                         The 33-day Sniper Detachment Com-                                    –   Advise on sniper employment at
a sniper has hit his intended target over
                                                         mander Course (SDCC) has two modules,                                    the combat team level. A corporal or
more than two kilometers. In fact, in 2002,
                                                         usually conducted back-to-back. The first                                master corporal learns to efficiently brief
Cpl Rob Furlong, a member of 3PPCLI,
                                                         is to produce a sniper instructor, to learn                              a commanding officer about a sniper
broke the world record for a kill-shot at
                                                         how to run the unit’s sniper range and                                   employment plan. For example, when
2430 metres. That record held until 2009.
                                                         teach other snipers. The second module                                   the UMS tasks a sniper to support an
                                                         focuses on tactics. The Army’s high opera-                               infantry company, the sniper attends the
Sniper Training                                          tional tempo requires focused and effective                              company commander’s orders group
Infantry School is responsible for two                   training within the SDCC. The material                                   (O-group) to advise how the sniper
courses, the Sniper Detachment Com-                      covered includes:                                                        group can support that mission. This is
mander Course (SDCC) and the Advanced                    – Tactical exercises without troops                                      unique to snipers; normally a junior non-
Sniper Course.                                              (TEWT) and Virtual Battle Space (VBS)                                 commissioned officer doesn’t attend
      Infantry School’s Sniper Cell is an inter-            exercises. VBS is not for sniper training,                            O-groups, but the sniper’s unique skills
nationally recognized centre of excellence                  per se, but develops leadership skills                                require this. “He may only have 30 sec-
for the Basic Sniper Course, where new                      for the master sniper. The simulation                                 onds,” notes WO Girard, “so he has to
developments in sniping are quickly                         technology used here is extremely bene-                               make them count.”
reflected. The course is decentralized so
each battalion or brigade runs its own basic                                   Members of the battle group’s sniper team study the ground at their firing position for an
sniper course. The Sniper Cell’s responsi-                                     exercise in high-altitude shooting in the mountains of this training area.
bility is the courseware – the manual and
the lesson plan – while the course content
is taught at the unit level.
      The Sniper Cell is the Army’s central
agency to receive all input, recommenda-
tions and observations from across Canada,
Afghanistan and any other operation or
source of input. The Sniper Cell evaluates
the input and implements change to ensure
that the sniper has the highest standard to
deploy in any war scenario.
      The School provides professional lead-
                                                   PHOTO: CPL BRUNO TURCOTTE

ership for the Canadian Army’s cadre of
snipers. The courses are standardized
across Canada – there is no freelance
instruction. New material is assessed by the
Infantry School’s Sniper Cell, and only then
is it passed to the units.

                                                                                                                           Issue 4, 2011   I   I   46
– Lead a sniper mission, where the can-           advanced course, they are not in front of               All unit snipers participate in the CISC
  didate is given tasks to prepare and brief      the computer screens, but at the headquar-         to assess their level of training. Sometimes
  the chain of command. These missions            ters with their maps, following the progress       a sniper discovers that his level of profi-
  cover the full spectrum of operations.          of the battle and making responses when            ciency has deteriorated. “But at least that
– Sniper-specific urban operations.               necessary. “The advanced sniper’s job is           tool is there to tell them that they have
  Modern conflict is frequently conducted         planning,” says WO Girard. “When plan-             missed the boat,” notes WO Girard.
  in urban environments and is very dif-          ning is done properly, everything flows                 The Canadian sniper cadre appreciates
  ferent from field operations. Snipers are       well. When there is significant change, it         this annual challenge, so if they find their
  trained in all aspects of operations to         can be communicated to the commander.”             skills are below expectation, they can take
  expose them to everything that can pos-                                                            steps to upgrade their abilities.
  sibly happen. They, in turn, can provide        Brigade Planning                                        Other allied forces also demonstrate
  those skills to their fellow snipers.           Planning a Material Neutralization Mission         their skills and sometimes bring different
                                                  is a special tactic that takes the sniper          operational experiences, such as those the
The Canadian sniper is trained to under-          behind enemy lines to use the rifle that           U.S. forces encountered in Afghanistan and
stand the battle plan, assess where the           delivers the biggest payload. This involves        Iraq. Both are different operations, and if
group can have its most effective contribu-       more planning than other missions and              the U.S. team attending CISC has Iraqi
tion, and brief it. When mission leaders          requires special consideration of factors          experience, they will bring a completely
receive a fire mission from “Callsign 66,”        which have to be planned by the UMS,               different set of skills than if they were in
the sniper callsign, they know the qualifi-       such as air coverage, and consideration            Afghanistan. Iraq involves more urban and
                                                  about collateral damage.                           insurrectionist experience. While Canada
cations, quality, training and experience of
                                                       But it would be a mistake to think that       doesn’t have sniper experience in Iraq, they
Canadian snipers, so when they respond to
                                                  each time a sniper targets an adversary            can assimilate their American colleagues’
calls for a fire mission or an air strike, they
                                                  through his scope there is a shot fired.           lessons learned into Canadian practice.
are confident in the skills and profession-
alism of the sniper with eyes on the target.      There are times when it is better to pin-
                                                  point the leader and report the information        How do Cdn Snipers Rate?
                                                  so this person can be tracked to allow iden-
Advanced Sniper Course                                                                               “Normally we are at the top,” says WO
                                                  tification of leaders, planners and belliger-
                                                  ents. This can lead to identification of           Girard with pride. The Canadian Army’s
The 25-day Advanced Sniper Course pro-
                                                  adversaries who manufacture and place              sniper profession has been continuously
duces soldiers capable of leading a sniper
                                                  improvised explosive devices, or other             maintained, when other nations’ are used
section or a sniper group. A sniper section
                                                  leaders, and locations where enemy                 only when they become engaged in con-
comprises two four-member detachments
                                                  fighters meet.                                     flict. “It’s not because we’re necessarily
and the group includes two sections and a
                                                       A UMS must be able to develop inno-           better,” explains WO Girard.” It’s because
master sniper (warrant officer), and a
                                                  vative ranges, such as for mountainous             we are continuously exposed to the spe-
                                                  areas, develop the necessary background            cialty.” Canada can employ snipers at the
    On completion, the advanced sniper
                                                  knowledge, and train his subordinates for          tactical and strategic levels.
can do the templating and miscellaneous
                                                  the specific environment.                                There is no “tooth-to-tail” ratio with
administration to run a range. At the
                                                                                                     snipers. All Canadian snipers are teeth,
strategic level, he will advise the com-                                                             meaning each one is a warrior.
mander about measures that can address a          Canadian International
                                                  Sniper Concentration                                     Canadian snipers work as part of a
problem or affect the battle. The master                                                             small team. These soldiers are exception-
sniper is responsible for his group, and a        The Canadian International Sniper Con-             ally fit, resilient and persistent – and
key element of the Advanced Sniper                centration (CISC) was inaugurated in 1997          normally very secretive about what they
Course is to train and prepare a sniper to        with 11 teams from the Canadian Army,              do; their operations and activities are
advise his commander about sniper group           other national military forces, Canadian           shrouded in security. They are taught to
training, budget and equipment.                   police forces, and observers from various          lead and to plan; all contingencies are iden-
    Advanced ballistic lessons and special-       nations. This event allows snipers to              tified and incorporated into the planning
ized operational ranges enable candidates         develop their skills and maintain profi-           process – whether it’s success, failure, vic-
understand the effects of Canadian sniper         ciency levels within the Canadian Army,            tory or defeat, and everything in-between.
weapons. Not only does the master sniper          allied forces and police units through the         If it can happen, it has to be included in the
know the impact of the weapons, but is            medium of an international concentration.          plan. The Canadian sniper always has to
also familiar with the enemy’s weaponry           Because it is a concentration and not a com-
                                                                                                     Canada has never lost a sniper in action. FL
                                                                                                     get away to fight another day. It works.
and capacity so he can develop plans to           petition, there is more sharing of informa-
counter these aspects and can advise the          tion and experiences among participants.
commander how to protect the unit.                     The CISC provides realistic and rele-         Tim Dunne served 37 years as a public
    TEWTs, Joint Conflict and Tactical            vant operational training; challenges the          affairs officer at DND and is now a
Simulation (JCATS) and VBS are used as            sniper’s skills through creative ranges; pro-      military affairs analyst and writer living
with the Sniper Detachment Commander              vides opportunities to share knowledge and         in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Course, but at a higher level so that leader-     experiences; and demonstrates current and
ship skills are better developed. In the          future technologies.

                                                                                                  Issue 4, 2011   I    I   47

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