FORT BRAGG, NC – US Army sniper teams, select law enforcement teams, and a small group of international teams competed at the third annual U.S. Army Special Operations Command Sniper Competition Dec. 5-9, 2011 on Fort Bragg, N.C.
The competition fielded 32 of the world’s best teams participating in 12 events, said Sgt. 1st Class Chance Giannelli, a Special Forces Sniper School instructor and the competition’s noncommissioned-officer-in-charge. Giannelli is assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne), part of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, which runs the competition for USASOC, Army and law-enforcement participants.
“We try to design the competition every year to be challenging and combat-oriented,” Giannelli said.
“Snipers can do more things in a two-man team than any other unit in the military,” said retired Master Sgt. Tom Smith, the competition’s closing-ceremony guest-speaker. .
This competition brings a lot of stresses sniper teams endure on any given mission, Giannelli said.
With any training or competition event comes the challenge of making it difficult but not too unrealistically difficult. In order to maintain the realistic feel, Giannelli had his fellow Special Forces Sniper Course instructors run through the course to validate it and create an accurate estimate on how long each event should take.
Staff Sgt. Ian Shepard, an instructor at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Ga., and a competitor in this year’s competition, said his goals were to compete strong and do his best.
In one of the events, participants fired from atop a four-story building, fast-roped down the building, and then ran 100 yards to a fire-under-cover position. From there, competitors made another quick run over a mound and into a simulated village where they maneuvered through tunnels, over walls, through buildings and finally fired at designated targets set at various distances from the inside of a grounded helicopter.
The stress test on Dec. 8 was the most challenging event, Giannelli said. It consisted of close-proximity scanning and maintaining awareness of one’s surroundings, he added.
“It’s really different from what we actually teach at our school [at Fort Benning],” Shepard said.
The U.S. Army Sniper School teaches long-range sniper fundamentals, while the USASOC Sniper Competition focuses on more expedient tasks involving shorter distances and more targets with less time to engage each one, Shepard said.
Special-operations units often operate as small teams in remote locations, where additional time and support is not always available.
Throughout the entire course, the targets ranged in distances to add difficulty.
The reality is that somebody will win and somebody will finish last, Shepard said. Just as it does on a battlefield, even one bullet can make a difference in determining the outcome of the competition.