Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reach out and touch somebody...

Y’know…war is a nasty business. It’s not always the clean, antiseptic, push-button, smart-bomb, impersonal, ready-for-the-evening-news soundbytes you see on the telly as you nibble your din-din.

Combat for the most part is messy, smelly, loud, and most unpleasant. Many times it can happen at ranges of less than 10 feet, where you can smell your enemy and see his face as the life leaves his eyes. It’s the type of thing that stays with you years after you’ve experienced it. Personally, I have never experienced it, though I trained for it. I’m honestly not sure how I would have handled it, but I’m pretty sure that if it had come to it, I would have acquitted myself in the fine tradition of American soldiering and those who came before me. Thankfully, I’ll never know. Not unless some dumb cretin decides to break into my house because I exercise my Second Amendment rights and will defend me and mine with 230 grains of Lanoke, Arkansas’ finest full metal jacket…

(Actually, I currently have two boxes of ammo for my .45; a box of Winchester 185-grain and a box of 230-grain from Remington’s Union Metallic Cartridge Company.)


I have a deep and profound respect for the solemn professionals who actually turn the nasty business of killing into something that is part science and part magic. I’m talking about snipers. With today’s technology, you can reach out and touch someone from a mile away, yet the optics bring it right up close and personal. Today’s snipers move silently and unseen to their positions, painstakingly, sometimes taking hours. They may stay completely still in the same spot for hours or days, in all sorta of weather and conditions, before finally engaging their target. It takes a very special type of soldier who can not only perform the mission but can do it with a professional detachment that allows you to do it without losing your humanity.

Recently, snipers from a US Navy SEAL unit took down the Somali pirates who were holding the captain of the Maersk Alabama hostage. People, they whacked those pirates in the dark, on a moving boat, from a moving boat. That’s pretty amazing. During the battle for Mogadishu made famous by the film Black Hawk Down, Delta Force snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shugart held off a huge enemy force and kept pilot Mark Durant alive before being mortally wounded. Immediately after the battle, the Somalis counted 24 of their own men dead with many more severely wounded who may have died later of their wounds. Both Gordon and Shugart were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Looking at an Afghani from a Marine sniper's view

Coalition snipers have been utilized to great success in both Iraq and in Afghanistan, and that brings me to the point of my babbling…

A British sniper this week killed a Taliban leader with the longest-ever fatal bullet shot in Afghanistan by a British sniper, from nearly two kilometers (1.15 miles) away.

Corporal Christopher Reynolds and his spotter, Lance Corporal David Hatton, had been camped on the roof of a shop for three days as he waited for the perfect conditions to shoot the terrorist commander. The incident happened last week during heavy fighting in the town of Babaji in Helmand Province. The warlord, known as 'Mula', is thought to be responsible for coordinating several attacks against British and American troops since the outbreak of war in 2001.

In the ensuing battle, an Afghan sniper was taken out by one of CPL Reynolds' comrades who fired a state-of-the-art Javelin missile launcher. Overkill maybe, but it sends a helluva message.

CPL Reynolds is a member of the Third Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots, The Black Watch) who has already killed 32 rebel fighters, and has been in Afghanistan since March. For those of you unfamiliar, the Black Watch is one of the most famous units in the UK. To me there’s something magical about a unit that used to wear their kilts into battle. That’s truly bad-ass.

CPL Chris Reynolds of 3 Scots in his dress uniform. Beware of men in kilts.

Corporal Rob Furlong of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry holds the record for the longest confirmed sniper kill in combat, at 2430 meters (2657 yards, or 1.51 miles) with a .50 caliber Macmillan Brothers Tac-50 rifle. Established in 2005, the shot exceeds that of Sergeant Brian Kremer of the US Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion in 2004 in Iraq (2300 meters). It also exceeds, by 144 meters (157 yd or 472 ft), that of USMC sniping legend Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock's 1967 record of 2286 metres (2500 yards, or 1.42 miles) and Master Corporal Arron Perry's record of 2,310 m (2,526 yd / 1.435 mi) set just before Furlong's record. Incidentally, Perry was in the same 5-man sniper team as Furlong.

U.S. Army 1LT Patrick Higgins (foreground) of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment surveys a village as SPC Aaron Trapley and SGT Gary Fordyce provide sniper overwatch and SGT Nicholas Gauthier provides security during a foot patrol near Forward Operating Base Mizan, Afghanistan, on Feb. 23, 2009.
DoD photo by SGT Christopher S. Barnhart, U.S. Army.


blackandgoldfan said...

All soldiers have nothing my deepest respect and admiration. God Bless and protect each and every one.

Btw...just found out that Murtha is being challenged for his seat. Go to to read up on this guy. As a resident of the 12th PA district, I'm excited!

Chris said...

A couple of things that are completely underrated that snipers provide is the scouting and psychological aspects of things. While scouting snipers get into places that most troops cannot or will not be able to get into, spend long days and nights watching and tracking troop movements, disposition of said troops, enemy defenses, types of command and control and funnelling all of that vital information back to the ground pounders who will need it most. This saves countless lives in the long run, but is never remnarked on. Snipers get a bad rap because the "civilized" world treats them as leperous killers who fight in a cowardly manner; killing from afar in a way that is less than "sporting". In the vein of my above statement of saving lives sniping has a HUGE psychological advantage to the unit that can control an area through such means...does anyone remember the DC sniper??? I do. I was in DC for a brief period while that was going on...people in a completely urban setting, who had no fear in general of warfare in their backyards, were reduced to scuttling at top speed in as low a profile as possible (by the way: have you EVER seen a 400 lb man scuttle?????), to scurry from their cars to the gas pump or the storefront or their front door...back to my point: sniping, while reprehensible to the vast majority of the civilian world, saves lives. Period. So before you pass judgement on what you don't really understand grab a rifle, look at something far away through a scope, and try to put yourself in those men's boots. It's not easy, it's very often thankless and God knows it is about as stressfull a job as you can have in war. So on my end to all the snipers in our coalition: Thank You! Semper Fi and for God's sake keep your heads down!!!

Steve: The Lightning Man said...

And trust me, kids....Chris knows a thing or two about US Marine Corps snipers!

Z said...

a bullet can go more than a MILE? Did I read that correctly???

blackandgoldfan, Murtha should have been kicked out of the senate the DAY he accused OUR BOYS of being cold blooded killers with as little info as Obama had when he condemned the Cambridge cops as being STUPID.

I THINK snipers are's pinpoint and seems to have very little collateral damage (which cracks me up because our enemy terrorists are LOOKING for the most collateral damage then can CAUSE, right? ..and leftwingers think WE're the monsters!? grrr)

Very interesting post, LM, I really learned a lot.
Am blog rolling you,'re good! And thanks for visiting me so often, I really like having your comments there.

Steve: The Lightning Man said...

With today's modern specialized rifles and specialized bllets, yes indeed. A well-trained sniper can, under the right conditions make adjustments for wind, curvature of the earth, target movement, and even humidity & barometric pressure, and engage a target a mile away. At that range, the enemy seldom even hears the shot that kills him, or if he does, he has about as much time to look up at the sound before a large chunk of himself gets flung several yards away. I hate to sound crass about it, but I don't pull punches. A hit in the shoulder with a big enough round will tear the arm completely off. Bullets tend to flatten a bit when they hit you (creating even more ballistic trauma) so a hole the size of a dime going in the chest will make a hole the size of a telephone book coming out the back. Don't even ask what a head shot looks like. There's pics on the Web of head shots on terrorists. I even saved a couple, but I couldn't put them in this blog post as a courtesy to the squeamish.

jay son said...

got to love 671 grains of diplomacy!!!

Steve: The Lightning Man said...

Y'know, I keep forgetting that those bullets have so damned much powder.

I have to get by on just 230 grains of Second Amendment. Ha!

Chris said...

Not too mention the people who just don't realize they are already dead and keep flopping and bouncing up off the ground after their souls have fled their bodies....yes Steve, all those fun factors come into pley...ballistics tables, minute of angle, deflection blah, blah, blah....but the guys who are simply the BEST of the best at sniping are the ones who have that freakish hand/eye coordination...their brains just operate on a different level....they can just "see" the shot, they know where the round is going before it leaves the rifle, they can tell you INSTANTLY where the round dropped in without the spotter telling them the result and have already figured out the NEXT shot before the bolt slams home on the previous's just amazing to watch. Yes technology has alot to do with things but I would say that if you gave some of the great snipers in history what some of the guys today had and the results would be just as just can't stand in the way of pure genius with a rifle (oh, and the ability and WILL to use it)!!!
Why do you think the Secret Service keeps extending the "bubble" area around the President????