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31 sniper teams shooting for title of top marksmen at Fort Benning

Sharp shooters from around the world have converged on Fort Benning for the Ninth Annual U.S. Army International Sniper Competition.

The competition, beginning its second day and running until Thursday, is designed to identify the world’s premier team of snipers. This year 31 teams are vying for the title of top marksmen.

“We have snipers from the Marine Corps, the Air Force, the Army National Guard, the Army,” said Sgt. Mike Snyder with Fort Benning’s Sniper School. “We also have guys here from special operations and foreign teams from Spain, England and the Irish Defense Forces.”

Snyder said there’s also a team each from the San Francisco SWAT Unit, the San Diego Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police Department.

“The focus of the competition is to bring teams together to share battlefield lessons learned, provide training initiatives and ideas, and to compete tactically and technically,” said the Web site for the Army Sniper Association, the organization designs the contest.

Staff Sgt. Livio Waits and his teammate, Sgt. Benjamin Soto, both with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Calvary Regiment, traveled from California to see how their skills compare to those of world’s best riflemen.

“The motivation to come is mainly the training we get out of it,” Waits said. “Getting to work with some of the best snipers in the world, you learn from them — kind of pick their brains and then actually at the same time kind of see where we stand.”

A variety of skills will be tested during the next week. The winning team will be the one that demonstrates the highest level of proficiency in all tasks. They’ll earn a variety of gifts that have been donated to the Army Sniper Association.

Waits and Soto said they most look forward to participating in the aerial shoot, scheduled for Wednesday beginning around 9 a.m. This event finds snipers shooting at targets from a hovering helicopter.

One of the most taxing events in years past has been the stress shoot, which calls for the men to run a mile carrying all their gear before completing a shooting drill.

The competition’s spectator-friendly events, according to Fort Benning’s public affairs office, include:

9 a.m. today: Defensive Shoot. For this event, competitors will be in makeshift, hidden structures engaging targets, but will be attacked by an enemy force and will have to move from those positions to pistol targets.

8 a.m. Saturday: Unknown Distance. Competitors will be shooting at ranges where they have to determine the distance to the target and then engage the target.

3 p.m. Monday: Shoot Out. This event tests competitors’ abilities to size targets at certain distances.

9 a.m. Tuesday: Combat Pistol. Competitors will fire pistols at moving targets.

These times are subject to change.