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Part 1 of 4: Welcome to Army Sniper School

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FORT BENNING, Ga. — Sniper candidate Spc. Logan Boling, camouflaged in a ghillie suit, had been hiding in the woods under leaves and branches for what seemed like hours. He was attempting to crawl undetected several hundred meters, to take a shot at a target he had selected.

Boling made a mistake, however. The vegetation he chose to hide beneath didn’t adequately conceal his weapon. The sun glistened off his barrel, which revealed his position to the spotters who had been looking for him. Boling had failed the challenge by allowing himself to be seen. As a result, an instructor pulled him from the training exercise.

Boling wasn’t the first to make a mistake, and wouldn’t be the last, either. More than 300 Soldiers each year begin the seven-week U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia, but only the best of those will make it through the course to graduation.

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“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training.

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DAY ONE: WELCOME TO SNIPER SCHOOL

Before sunrise in early August, 46 Soldiers reported for the first day of sniper school as part of Class 10-17 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Every new student, private first class through staff sergeant, had already met demanding criteria just to be accepted into the school.

Before deciding to send a Soldier to sniper school, for instance, a Soldier’s home unit typically evaluates them on land navigation and marksmanship skills. Those same Soldiers also needed to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test at their home unit, and needed exceptionally high marks on their Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Experience as an infantry, cavalry or Special Forces Soldier is also a requirement.

Additionally, each student needed to undergo a psychological evaluation before being cleared to attend the training, to ensure they had the mental fitness to be a sniper.

“Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” Moran said. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”

Snipers must be physically fit, patient, even-keeled, quiet, smart, good at math, agile, and adaptive, Moran said. They must also be able to make snap judgments and quick decisions on their feet.

On a miserably hot and humid day in middle Georgia, Soldiers formed up inside a makeshift gymnasium, and waited to be given another demanding physical fitness test. They had to prove once again to the Army that they were fit enough to be trained as snipers.

Moran said fitness is important because being a sniper is physically demanding.

“Instead of a normal 35-pound rucksack, a sniper might carry up to 110 pounds on his back and have to walk many miles or even crawl to accomplish the mission,” Moran said. “Since snipers operate in small teams, if the equipment is needed, it has to be carried by that team.”

The students, nervous and anxious, were fidgeting in anticipation before this first evaluation at sniper school. One by one, they cranked out pushups and sit-ups. Then they fell out on a nearby road and prepared for a 2-mile run that they had to complete in less than 16.3 minutes.

All the students passed the test, but as they finished, each was winded, breathing heavily, with t-shirts soaked from sweat.

Usually, during the initial physical evaluation, a few students will fail and are dropped from the course. But this day, every student passed.

In the afternoon, students were taken to a shooting range and tested on their marksmanship skills with the M4 carbine, using only the fixed iron sights.

During firing, instructors walked up and down the lines ensuring students were using the proper techniques they had been taught.

A few students looked confused, and bewildered. It was apparent they needed some extra instruction. Instructors patiently stooped down to answer questions and ensure they understood.

During the firing, students wiped the sweat from their eyes as they squinted in the hot sun. They were uncomfortable, tired, hot and exhausted. However, they could not let these discomforts deter from their marksmanship. After each student shot, their scorecards were collected and evaluated by instructors.

Twelve students were sent home.

DAY 2: GHILLIE CHALLENGE

On the second day, students were taught how to make a ghillie suit, a type of camouflage designed to resemble the foliage in the environment where a sniper might operate. The suit helps break up the outline of a sniper’s body.

Students laid a net on a large wooden table and then patiently attached strips of burlap, leaves, twigs, and other foliage to the net. The result was their own personalized garment that would help them blend into the natural foliage at the Fort Benning training area.

Students also learned to apply camouflage to places the ghillie suit wouldn’t cover. Using mirrors, they applied the camouflage makeup to their face, neck and hands. Students then inspected one another to ensure no skin was exposed.

Later in the afternoon, dressed in their ghillie suits and with camouflage makeup on their faces, the students got the first opportunity to crawl through the mud like a real sniper.

Together, the students crawled several hundred feet through tall grass down the side of a road. Near the end of road, they turned and continued crawling through a deep ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, vegetation and fallen tree branches.

Moran observed and coached each student as they crawled and paddled through the ditch. “Watch out for that rock,” he called out. “And don’t forget to open your eyes.”

Part of the exercise also involved students helping one another. Each picked up and carried a classmate for a short distance in their wet and muddy ghillie suits. Then they pulled one of their buddies back down the side of the road in the grass.

The training is meant to prepare snipers for a situation where one of their fellow Soldiers is wounded or hurt. It enables them to live up to the motto: “never leave a Soldier behind.”

Moran said he remembered doing the same exercises himself when he went through sniper school, and it made him smile. But back then, he said, he didn’t know for sure why it was they had been crawling through the mud.

Today, he knows. One reason for these exercises, he said, is to test the durability of the ghillie suits. When suits are tested in these conditions, they often become snagged on rocks or branches and tear. A suit that is not put together well will fall apart, he said.

“The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”

Big League Guns

In Republican-Controlled Wyoming, A Gun Rights Group is Now being Forced to Reveal its Donors

Violation of privacy.

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The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office is cracking down on a pro-Second Amendment organization by forcing it to reveal its donors. This move was spurred by a campaign that Wyoming Gun Owners launched last summer in which it attacked a number of incumbent elected officials in races across the state.

In a letter that the office published on October 14, 2020 Wyoming Gun Owners allegedly did follow the state’s campaign finance law.

The organization pulled off a number victories by unseating incumbent lawmakers last summer and has released advertisement targeting various candidates in the elections on November 3, which includes Riverton Republican Ember Oakley and Democrat Britney Wallesch.

The pro-Second Amendment organization has been around Wyoming politics for some time and publicly disclosed that it is paying for advertisements. However, its lack of registry with the state as either a lobbying organization or a political action committee runs afoul of state guidelines.

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“The Secretary of State’s Office has reviewed the advertisements paid for by WYGO and determined that they are clearly electioneering communications,” the letter stated. “As such, WYGO failed to comply with the requirements set forth in Wyo. Stat. § 22-25-106(h).”

It wasn’t until a few months ago that the group’s activities have not been reported within the state government. The Wyoming government cannot initiate the investigation on electioneering activity allegations unless someone files a formal complaint.

An initial complaint was first reported by the Riverton Ranger newspaper earlier this month. It did not gather any further steam because it was lacking in evidence to support the allegations. Subsequently, a second complaint with proper documentation was filed with the state not too long after, which prompted the Secretary of State to take action.

Wyoming Gun Owners now has until November 4 to disclose the names of its donors or be slapped with a $500 fine.

If the group refuses to follow the state’s order, the case will then be kicked to the Wyoming Attorney General, according to secretary of state spokesperson Monique Meese.

“Then we take their advice about what to do going forward,” she stated.

State Senator Anthony Bouchard founded Wyoming Gun Owners almost a decade ago. Nowadays, it is run by various members of the Dorr Family, who operate a network of pro-gun organizations pushing for pro-Second Amendment policies.

Aaron Dorr, Wyoming Gun Owners’ executive director, has had public disputes with elected officials such as Senate Vice President Ogden Driskill, who has repeatedly criticized the organization’s tactics during the 2020 election cycle.

The pro-gun organization bolstered its reputation by killing a firearm reporting bill in 2019 sponsored by former Campbell County Sheriff and current State Representative Bill Pownall.  Wyoming Gun Owners ran ads supporting Bill Fortner, Pownall’s opponent. Throughout these ad blasts, Pownall was depicted as anti-gun. Fortner ended up winning in a landslide.

Such a case shows how even Republican governments will go out of their way to prop up incumbents and infringe on the privacy rights of organizations that wish to restore freedoms such as the Second Amendment. Just because politicians have an “R”s beside their name does not guarantee that they will protect individuals’ rights.

 

 

 

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