News: The Sniper Connection: An international family of hunters
Story by Staff Sgt. Charles Crail
HAMMELBERG, Germany -- When learning to hunt, there are always tell tale signals left behind to guide the hunter to his prey; a broken twig here, matted down grass where the prey spent the night, a puff of smoke from just inside the wood line.
Finding their quarry is just one piece of the puzzle for two Soldiers of the 172nd Infantry Brigade attending the 4-week German Sniper Course, here, April 20. If the quarry detects their approach, it won't just spook and run, it could kill them with overwhelming firepower.
"Finding the right shadows, the right position to shoot from is all very challenging," said Sgt. Chad Silva, combat engineer, C Company, 9th Engineer Battalion.
Spc. Michael Ates, infantryman, sniper section, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, echoed Silva's sentiment saying the most difficult portion of the training has been stalking and shooting moving targets. Stealth is the key when a sniper stalks; both before and after the shot, he added.
The opportunity for these two Soldiers to attend the German Sniper Course began two years ago with a chance meeting at range control in Schweinfurt, Germany.
German Master Sgt. Markus Eckert, sniper instructor at the German Infantry School recounted how his friendship with Michael Cormier, the maneuver damage control officer for the 172nd Inf. Bde. opened many doors for him to establish friendships in the U.S. sniper community.
"Mike introduced me to the Arkansas National Guard's mobile training team which taught the MTT Sniper Course in Grafenwoehr," Eckert said through a translator. "This opened the door for me to travel to the U.S. in 2008."
"Snipers are a different breed. German or American, snipers are snipers. Together, they form a sniper family," said Cormier.
This family connection and network of contacts has grown into an unofficial program, Eckert said. Over a 2-year period, the German Sniper Course has hosted 12-13 U.S. Soldiers. German sniper instructors have also had the opportunity to work directly with U.S. Sniper School, Fort Benning, Ga.
"The tactical value is really immeasurable," said Capt. Ken Noack, commander, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment which leads the U.S. Sniper School at Fort Benning. "Every piece of knowledge gained could potentially save lives or enable both military's snipers to be that much more of an asset to their unit. The cohesion that is built and the ability to work closely with an Allied nation only makes us better partners and a more effective international force in places like Afghanistan."
"The most evident benefit is the camaraderie built between the Germans and U.S.," Noack said while explaining the exchange of knowledge and tactics. "Due to the fact we serve alongside German Soldiers and snipers in Afghanistan, this is a critical benefit for us."
"I'm loving it," said Silva. "It's a great experience, great everything. Master Sgt. Eckert has been showing us the ins-and-outs of how the German Sniper School goes. It's a great opportunity, I'm glad to be here."
"The knowledge gained by both parties has allowed us to shape our training to be even better," said Noack speaking of the immediate benefits and potential expansion of the program. "In the future, I would like to see an instructor exchange to both take the courses and to act as guest instructors."
Eckert summarized the ultimate benefit simplest, "We train together, we fight together and we win wars together."