FORT BRAGG, N.C. March 2018— Some of the best marksmen from across the globe gathered on Fort Bragg this week for a chance to test their mettle against their fellow sharpshooters.
The U.S. Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition involved nearly two dozen teams from seven countries and four branches of the U.S. Armed Services.
The two-man teams were tested on their range, speed and accuracy. But the biggest challenge came from within their own ranks.
A series of timed challenges were meant to replicate real-world missions as well as stress the relationships and communication skills of competitors.
“When guys get put on the clock they go faster. There’s more pressure,” said a Special Forces Sniper Course instructor with the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. “You have plenty of time to build a durable and steady position. But they rush it and then they start missing.”
“Guys do better when they’re laughing and joking,” the instructor said.
The Special Warfare Center and School’s Sniper Committee hosted the competition, which began at Fort Bragg in 2009. The school’s sniper course is used by all of Army special operations, including Special Forces and Rangers.
The 2018 competition included teams from across the Army, Marine and Navy special operations communities. A Marine Recon sniper team, Coast Guard sniper team and a team from the Army Sniper School also were represented. Teams from Singapore, France, Italy, Germany, Ireland and Norway also competed.
The winning team was to be announced Friday, following the week-long event.
On Tuesday, teams were taken to ranges on Fort Bragg for a series of tests designed to challenge them mentally and physically.
At Range 67, snipers raced against the clock as they moved from one firing point to the next, engaging a series of 12-inch by 16-inch targets that were up to 600 meters away.
Officials said the competition was about more than accuracy and distance. It also was about finding a team that performed well in a stressful situation.
“They’ve got six minutes,” a sniper course instructor said as he watched the two-person team prepare to compete.
As one soldier looked through the scope of his rifle in the prone position, his partner spied the targets and told him how to adjust his shot. With the threat of time expiring, some teams were impatient.
But those who communicated well were more often than not rewarded with the satisfying “plunk” of their bullet hitting the steel target.
Teams received information on each event as they were driven around Fort Bragg’s extensive network of ranges. At each stop, they received an additional verbal briefing and then had one minute to ask questions.
At Range 62B, their communications skills were further tested. Twenty targets were mixed amid a range that includes numerous obstacles, buildings and mock vehicles. Each was marked by a symbol and a color denoting the type of weapon that should be used — pistol, carbine or sniper rifle.
Working together, the competitors had to look at a card shown to them by an instructor, find that symbol and shoot the target with the appropriate weapon.
From a raised platform with numerous levels that replicated the top of a building, competitors could not see every target from a single position. Instead, they had to split up to guide each other to their intended targets.
“It’s essentially ‘Where’s Waldo,’” said a Special Forces Sniper Course instructor overseeing the event. “It’s designed to suck them in, get them distracted or moving faster than needed to be.”
If a team member struck the wrong target, points were deducted from their score.
“The successful teams are the ones that are slowing down, identifying the target,” the instructor said. “This forces teams to work together.”
At Range 42, the targets were more straightforward. But this time, it was a physical challenge facing the teams.
The event began with each competitor running uphill with a 90-pound kettlebell. They then took turns firing at targets before moving on with their added weight to a new position.
Officials said the event was designed to mimic the weight of a typical combat load and tested the team’s ability to move their gear to a new position without losing their ability to engage their target.
The event included day and night shooting and at times placed limitations on the type of equipment a team could use. Ranges included those that were essentially an open field as well as those that mimicked an urban environment.
Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3567.
Past Competitions 2010