News: 3rd Cavalry Regiment certifies snipers from home
Story by Sgt. Lance Pounds
FORT HOOD, Texas – When the 3rd Cavalry Regiment transitioned to a Stryker-based unit, it created the need for some specialized training to meet new mission structure and requirements. Among the new requirements, the regiment needed to find approximately 36 outstanding troopers to train for a specialized, elite combat mission; the regiment needed snipers.
The regiment invested nearly two years in the planning process, to include gaining approval from FORSCOM to meet that training requirement while allowing the troopers to remain here with their families, said Sgt. 1st Class William Bailey, the regimental schools non-commissioned officer-in-charge.
Potential snipers, selected by their respective commands, normally attend a five-week long course at Fort Benning, Ga. But in this case, the regiment brought in a mobile training team of instructors from Fort Benning to train and certify troopers selected for the course.
The 3rd Cavalry Regiment held a graduation ceremony, July 3, for 33 troopers who successfully completed the sniper certification course here.
The average graduation rate for a mobile training team is approximately 50-60 percent, which is lower than the rate for courses held at Fort Benning, largely due to training factors.
Snipers attending the school at Fort Benning receive all of their training in an environment with established facilities and standards; with the MTT, the preparation for the course relies on the host unit, said an official from the U.S. Army Sniper School.
“Such a high graduation rate is a direct representation of the regiment’s level of concern for the professional development of our soldiers,” said Bailey.
“I think this training is better for the soldiers because this is their home ground,” said Sgt. 1st Class Devin Dove, a sniper instructor and member of the mobile training team from Fort Benning.
Dove and his team trained the students in rifle marksmanship and range estimation using the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, stalking and concealment movements using a ghillie suit, and blocks of the instruction in the form of written exams.
“Stalking was the most difficult because I had to set up and maintain a position for a long period of time, as well as make a clean exit,” said Sgt. Brice Myers, an infantryman from 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. A time limit of three hours made the task that much more challenging.
In the stalking exercise, students were taken to wooded area where they painted their faces, prepared their ghillie suits, and mapped out a route they could take to reach their target without being detected.
Their target: two senior sniper instructors in the back of a light medium transport vehicle, armed with high-powered binoculars, constantly scanning for the slightest telltale sign of an approaching student.
To minimize the chance of being detected, each student carefully prepared his ghillie suit using weaves of natural vegetation to help break up his outline; the ability to stay invisible can be the difference between mission success or mission failure.
If either spotter saw movement, he immediately radioed a pointer, who investigated the area in question. If the pointer verified that a student was the source of the movement, the student would be notified of his deficiencies and disqualified from the exercise.
Myers, who was named honor grad of the course, was one of the few students to pass the stalking exercise on his first attempt.
“I asked questions until I had a good understanding of every aspect of becoming a sniper,” said Meyers, who attributed his success in the course to his desire to effectively lead soldiers as a sniper team leader within his unit.
Sgt. Joseph Asawa, a sniper team leader also from 1st Squadron, earned the title of Top Shot for achieving the highest and most accurate number of confirmed hits. He gave the credit for his success to his team.
“Trust in my spotter and in my team is paramount,” said Asawa.
A spotter is responsible for factoring elevation, distance, temperature, and wind speed before advising the shooter on where to aim.
Asawa’s spotter, Private First Class Cody Hibbard, a team leader for 1st platoon, 1st Squadron, said that means a lot to have people like Asawa and his supervisers trust in his abilities.
“That is why we are a select group; the quiet professionals,” said Asawa as he described what it means to him to now be certified as a sniper in the Army.
Following the ceremony, the students were congratulated by their families, friends, and leaders for a job well done. Now they will take their places in the developing internal framework of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, ready to employ the skills they have earned.