FORT BENNING, Ga. — For the candidates who made it to week two of the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia, their greatest challenges were just beginning.
Students in their ghillie suits were dispersed throughout the wooded hills and hid under leaves and branches. Instructors with high-powered optics were trying to locate them. If part of a student’s body became exposed, or if he became impatient and moved suddenly, his position was given away. When that happened, the student failed.
There was plenty in the woods there to make a Soldier uncomfortable enough to move and give away his position. There was the heat, for starters. And there was also an array of mosquitoes, ants, and other insects that could crawl into a Soldier’s eyes or onto his face to make him squirm. But all of that had to be ignored for those Soldiers to pass the test.
Moran remembered, as a student years ago, he crept closer and closer toward a target: a driver of a truck, who was positioned some 600 meters away. Dressed in camouflage and a ghillie suit, and holding his high-powered rifle, he had been hiding under a pile of grass, stealthily crawling only five feet an hour, trying to remain undetected. When he had crept within 250 meters of his target, he fixed the crosshairs of his scope and pulled the trigger.
“Stalking requires close attention to detail of both the changing vegetation and light conditions through which a sniper moves,” Moran said. “Stalking also requires a high tolerance for discomfort.”
Sometimes snipers must be able to identify targets of opportunity, so another part of the training during this time was target detection.
In target detection, snipers must dissect their area of operation through observation, using their naked eye, binoculars, and rifle scope.
Snipers are trained to be able to get close enough to the enemy and take him out with one shot for one reason: to save Soldiers’ lives.
Moran added that the stalking and target detection exercises for the remainder of the week are the most significant disqualifiers. Many students fail during this portion of the course.
“Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline,” Moran said. “Students must pay attention to the smallest details in every subject of the course … and grasp the training concepts taught here at our school.
“In extreme weather conditions, some students lack the necessary attention to detail,” Moran said. “And for others, they come to the class without the proper preparation.
“With every class, I’m hopeful that we won’t have anyone fail,” he said. “It’s realistic to assume that some or all of student candidates may not have gotten the required training they should have gotten at their units before coming to our course here. However, students can return to their units, retrain and reapply to our school again.”
Twenty-five students failed during week two.
Also during the first couple of weeks, students learned to do reconnaissance. Groups of three or four would simulate being deep behind enemy lines. They nestled behind shrubbery in a densely forested area where they couldn’t be seen.
In this exercise, students had to be patient, often lying perfectly still for hours at a time. When they moved, they crawled slowly and stealthily. Meanwhile, with their binoculars trained on a target, they would watch for enemy movement.
“The sniper team’s secondary mission is the collection and reporting of battlefield information,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Doolittle, sniper school operations non-commissioned officer.
“A highly effective team can move into an area, remain undetected, and report enemy movements, equipment, and patterns of life,” he said. “If need be and trained to, the sniper team can also call in artillery on enemy positions to disrupt or kill the enemy.”
Moran said it was one of his mentors that helped him understand what it means to benefit and help shape a unit from a reconnaissance and sniper perspective.
He chose to become a sniper, he said, because he feels that it is a vital service to the Army. But also, he said, he thinks the role of the sniper is misunderstood.
“Snipers are force multipliers,” Moran said, explaining that a few good snipers can sometimes swing momentum on the battlefield.
“This is why I chose this profession,” he said. “I wanted to be a force multiplier.
“Snipers don’t just shoot,” he continued. “Snipers are detail-oriented, can accomplish a task with little or no support, and can help every commander at every level if they are given the opportunity. Put faith in your snipers, and they will get you the results you need, and much more.”
In the third week, students learned data-gathering strategies to engage targets at unknown distances. They were also taught the basics of sniper marksmanship.
Week three was a mix of classroom instruction and range time with 90 percent spent on the range. Students conducted standard Army physical training in the morning along with their instructors. After breakfast, they moved to a range for a day of firing where they were taught sniper/spotter dialogue.
Burroughs Range has some rolling terrain but is mostly flat. Both sides of the range are lined with trees to help separate range lanes. The firing line is worn down with no grass, exposing the red Georgia clay. The range is about 400 meters wide and about 950 meters long. There are several old burnt-out cars and a couple of old tank hulls that litter the range. These vehicles serve as markers to help students determine the distance to targets.
The targets that students fired at were man-sized, 20 inches wide by 40 inches tall steel targets. There was an audible “ding” heard when bullets hit the targets.
Targets were placed on the range from 300 meters to 800 meters, were painted white, and had either a number or letter so that the instructors could tell the students what to shoot.
The entire week was daytime firing, and students fired between 80 to 120 rounds a day.
On the range, a group of four to six students was assigned to a sniper/instructor. Sniper/instructors were “on glass” looking through a spotting scope at the targets and telling them what targets to shoot.
They coached the students on marksmanship fundamentals and instructed them to make adjustments in their rifle sightings after missed rounds, due in part to varying weather conditions. Instructor mentorship was critical.
“The instructors I work with now are some of the most professional individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” Moran said. “They are knowledgeable in every aspect of the job and enjoy talking about work in their off time. They are always thinking of ways to better the course so we can send the best-trained snipers back to their units.”
Moran and the majority of the instructors have engaged and killed multiple enemy targets as an infantryman.
“Whether as an infantryman or as a sniper, the act of conducting a lethal engagement is a severe one that cannot be overemphasized,” said one instructor.
In Moran’s first duty assignment, he served with the 75th Ranger Regiment. With that unit, he deployed six times, including three times as a sniper. After leaving the 75th Ranger Regiment to stand up a sniper section at 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, Moran served as the reconnaissance platoon sergeant. After that, he began teaching.
“I enjoy the independence that is often required for the job, and relying on a small group of select individuals,” Moran said.
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‘Gross Miscarriage of Justice’: Legislation Aims to Fix Law After Student Charged with Terror Threats Over Rifle Picture
Republican lawmakers in the state of Michigan held a press conference on Tuesday in Lansing to announce new legislation that was crafted in response to the Lucas Gerhard case.
Big League Politics broke the story weeks ago of how the 20-year-old criminal justice student was kicked out of Lake Superior State University, charged with making terror threats, and imprisoned for 83 days because he posted a picture of a rifle on Snapchat that triggered a leftist female on campus.
Rep. John Reilly of Lake Orion has led the charge in creating awareness of the case and has devised legislation to stop prosecutorial abuse of this magnitude from happening again.
“When I first ran for office, I never thought I would be here today introducing legislation to explain the difference between a joke and a terror threat,” Reilly said. “I never thought our society was so fragile that someone’s life could be ruined by telling a joke among friends.”
He explained that Gerhard’s intent did not matter, whether he meant snow or he meant that he was going to trigger some left-wing snowflakes was irrelevant. It is Gerhard’s 1st Amendment right as a free American to express himself as he wishes.
“This case sits at the nexus of 1st Amendment rights, 2nd Amendment rights, campus culture, cancel culture, privacy, due process of law, and the weaponizing of the criminal justice system,” Reilly said.
Reilly mentioned that this legislation would likely be the first in a series of bills to address constitutional abuses, particularly on college campuses, which have grown even more hostile toward conservatives since President Trump’s election in 2016.
House Bill 5483 would make the statute pertaining to terror threats applicable only when a specific violent threat is made toward an individual or property. The threat will also have to come from the individual or an agent of the individual, rather than an unrelated third party. The legislation would also institute a reasonable listener standard so that opportunistic prosecutors could not make an example of someone like Gerhard for political purposes.
“I hope people are noticing who and what is driving the effort to make it dangerous to speak freely,” Reilly explained. “I am a politician. I signed up to be publicly attacked, and I’m fine with that, but Lucas Gerhard was a student with every expectation that the university that he was undoubtedly paying a huge amount of money to attend was going to treat him honorably, help him succeed in defending his rights, and stand up for free speech for all by supporting him when his rights were attacked. But no, the total opposite happened.”
Reilly was joined at the press conference by Lucas’ father Mark, a retired Marine Colonel who works for the federal government; Rep. Beau LaFave, the state legislator from Marquette who represents Michigan’s upper peninsula where Gerhard used to go to school; and Tom Lambert, the President of Michigan Open Carry.
“While this is playing out in real time, the school wasn’t seeing this as a general public safety concern,” Mark Gerhard said. “It was only afterwards when they decided that they were going to pursue this along with the prosecutor.”
“This is a gross miscarriage of justice,” LaFave said. “This shouldn’t happen to you, Lucas. You’re a nice guy. You didn’t do anything wrong for exercising your Second Amendment right and talking about it with your First Amendment right.”
Lambert drew a parallel between Gerhard’s case and red flag laws that are currently active in the Michigan state legislature.
“The standards of due process here, while they fail, they are at a certain level… The proposals for red flag laws reduce those protections. They lower those levels,” Lambert said.
“If these are the problems that we are already seeing under existing law, what is it going to be like for good people when we take those protections away – when we reduce those protections? Due process exists for a reason,” he added.
Chippewa County Prosecutor Rob Stratton, whose office has attempted to make an example of Gerhard, would not give a comment regarding the allegations of impropriety in how the case has been handled.
“The prosecutor’s office cannot comment as to the facts or evidence against Mr. Gerhard because it seriously risks impacting his constitutional guaranteed right to a fair trial,“ Stratton told 9&10 News.
Gerhard’s next court date is scheduled for Mar. 18. The legislation is currently in the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security where it awaits further action.
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