I recently finished reading Chris Martin’s new book, Modern American Snipers and was very impressed by the scope of the book and what Chris was able to accomplish with it. Connecting the dots that most authors overlook and explaining the nuances of what various Special Operations units do and don’t have in common, Chris gives an eye-opening look at what Special Operations snipers have been doing over the last 12 years.
Probably the biggest surprise for many readers is that these operations do not always look like the classic sniper scene commonly depicted in books about the Vietnam War. You know where I’m going with this: a sniper and his spotter low-crawl into position for three days, concealed by the ghillie suits, construct a hide site, and wait another two days to fire one shot and assassinate a communist General. Today’s snipers rarely do that kind of work.
The snipers from the Ranger Regiment, Delta Force, SEALs, and other units often engaged in much closer range engagements, especially in Iraq. Additionally, snipers are often tasked to complete recce and intel missions, which is elaborated upon in the book.
There was one section of Modern American Snipers that made me cringe, the parts where Chris quotes me in an interview we did about my former sniper platoon in 3rd Ranger Battalion, and my former Platoon Sergeant, Jared Van Aalst. My words in the book are brutally honest in regards to how I felt about my time working in sniper section under Van Aalst. However, taken in a broader context (Van Aalst was KIA in Afghanistan in 2010), it just sounds like talking ill of the dead.
The story is much more complicated than that, but I hope readers will continue to the end of the book to understand the epilogue to this story. Despite our antagonisms, Van Aalst was looking out for me behind the scenes. That was something that I was too young, angry, and arrogant to realize at the time.
Beyond the intra-politics of 3/75 snipers, you will also read some firsthand accounts of Rangers conducting sniper operations from my friends Nick Irving and Isaiah Burkhart. You will also go for a ride with former Delta operators Donald Hollenbaugh, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for single-handedly defending a rooftop in Fallujah, and John “Shrek” McPhee, a Delta Recce operator known for conducting singleton missions in enemy territory.
You’ll also get the lowdown on the SEAL sniper course from Brandon Webb, and read about Dev Group sniper missions in Somalia in 1993. The fact that a small number of Dev Group snipers worked alongside ISA intelligence specialists prior to and during Operation Gothic Serpent has never been widely known to the public.
Many books have been written about Special Operations over the years, most of them retreads of half-true information you can find on Wikipedia, but Chris was able to interview a large number of former SOF personnel to get the inside story of how sniper capabilities developed during the War on Terror, as well as plenty of firsthand accounts of actual combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond.