I am often questioned about the selection process for a 75th Ranger Regiment sniper. The complete process may take years before a Ranger can become a sniper in any Battalion. The sniper community now, only taking Rangers with multiple combat deployments, the Ranger Tab, and men who have served in multiple leadership positions. This is key when shaping a great sniper. He has to know how the battlefield works from all aspects as a Ranger when assaulting an objective.
During my time in 3rd Ranger Battalion, I served as an assaulter, machine gunner, and designated marksman before even being sent to Ranger school, as well as multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. After the completion of Ranger school, the doors opened and I was given the choice of serving in the recon, dog handler, and sniper platoons. Battalion holds a selection process for each of these job specialties, varying in length and is tailored to the job.
My selection for the sniper platoon consisted of mental evaluations, physical fitness tests, shooting drills with the M4 and the M16 designated marksman rifle, and a board selection. Out of the ten or so men who attended the sniper selection with me, three failed to meet the standards and subsequently released back to their line platoons.
After successfully completing the selection phase, we were all assigned to a company and platoon who we would support overseas and placed on a probation period lasting 6 months. During the probation period, failing to meet the standards within the sniper section, you were released back to your original line platoon. As with anything in Ranger Battalion, the standards were enforced to a tee. The standards ranged from being on time to a formation, to successfully graduating a sniper school.
When battalion used to only send guys to sniper school, and if you’re lucky Marine Scout, we now have an endless supply of sniper schools in which we can attend, civilian or military. Military schools are great, but to learn sniper tactics and techniques from a civilian who has taught everyone from Tier 1 groups to the Secret Service Snipers for over 20 years is priceless. I learned quickly that being a one minded military sniper gets you absolutely nowhere in improving your craft.
During my time in sniper section, we had guys that would attend schools for six months straight with only a few weeks’ vacation before deploying. As for myself, I attended the US Army sniper school, High Angle Course, Precision Rifle Course, Extreme Range Precision Course, 3rd Ranger Battalion Designated marksman course, and the Designated marksman course held by the AMU in a six month time span. The plethora of knowledge gathered not only saved lives, but gave me the confidence to make a shot at distances beyond 800 yards, and be 100 percent sure that I would hit my target with no more than two rounds. The two round hit on target was key in the role I had as a sniper deployed. On a single mission, my team would engage as many as 15 targets, and with our limited supply of ammunition, every shot had to count.
After successfully completing these courses, I was assigned to a platoon deploying to Afghanistan. With the amount of knowledge gained stateside, I would have to say that it directly contributed to success of my missions while deployed.
Years before becoming a sniper, the sniper was not always at the center of the fight. The main role of the sniper back then was to simply provide over-watch, and to report real-time intelligence of a target we were going to hit. With the amount of training that the snipers in Battalion are going through nowadays, commanders have confidence in the men to conduct special tasks and operations, which were at a time considered a “No Go.”
For example, on my first deployment as a sniper, my sniper team along with four reconnaissance Rangers set out on a five day operation behind enemy lines to gather intel. On the fourth day of our operation, my sniper team thwarted an enemy attack on a Marine compound by placing precise rounds on enemy targets beyond 700 meters, not normally the range of a direct action sniper. The fifth day of our operation, my team was caught in a 360 degree ambush and on the receiving end of a Chechen sniper. With the training we had completed stateside, my team was successful in engaging targets that extended the “max effective range” of our SR-25 sniper rifles and evaded the Chechen sniper.
All in all, I believe that the amount of knowledge the snipers have access to within the 75th Ranger Regiment allows them to perform tasks/operations normally reserved for Tier 1 groups.