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2010 international sniper competition draws top shots

Top shooters from across the globe are at Fort Benning this week competing in the 10th annual International Sniper Competition.

The competition began at midnight Tuesday and concludes today.

Thirty-two teams are competing this year, including seven foreign, three law enforcement and 22 U.S. military teams. Three are Fort Benning teams from the 6th Ranger Training Battalion, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team and the 75th Ranger Regiment.

The two-man teams will compete in 14 events including a sniper stalk, urban shooting and orienteering exercises, firing under stressful conditions and other tests of marksmanship and sniper skills.

In keeping with last year’s competition, the teams were divided into two categories, service class and open class. Service class competitors fired 7.62 mm or smaller rounds as a primary or secondary weapon system, the open class was for teams firing rounds in a caliber larger than 7.62 mm.

Wednesday morning, following 24 hours of competition and nine events, the Special Forces Sniper School’s Team 2 led the service class, followed closely by teams from the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and the U.S. Marine Corps’ Scout Snipers. In the open class, the CAG team was in the lead, trailed by teams from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regt., and the Special Forces Sniper School’s Team 1. This year, six of the events are at night and there is a greater emphasis on real-world scenarios and limited sleep, said the event planners.

The 72-hour event runs virtually non-stop, with only two four-hour rest breaks in the three days of competition, said LTC J.C. Miller, commander of 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, 197th Infantry Brigade, whose C Company conducts sniper school training.The added stress and fatigue factors have added a new level to the competition not seen in past years, said MSG Michael Snyder, OIC of the U.S. Army Sniper School, which is hosting the event.

“We wanted to simulate what guys are doing in combat. They are going to be tired, getting little sleep and still be expected to do one mission after another,” he said. “We are getting more combat-focused.”Snyder said 2009 competitors averaged eight hours of sleep each day of competition. This year, the average is 50 percent less and more sporadic, with many teams catching some shut-eye in the holding areas in between events.

The more challenging events in the competition, cited by several competitors, included Tuesday’s night movers — shooting on unilluminated targets at night — and Wednesday’s stress shoot, which included a timed run down an 800-meter lane, stopping at various points to fire on targets, collect data and evacuate casualties.

A new event this year was the Loop Hole. The event Tuesday tested the snipers ability to shoot from a third story rafter, through a 3-inch hole and strike a target 150 meters away.“In competition, you will go at a faster pace then you would in combat,” said SSG Kyle Maples, a five-time combat veteran. “In some situations, you take enemy fire, you are going to get the adrenaline up, you are going to be breathing heavy so an event like (the stress shoot) is pretty close to simulating what it would actually be like in combat.”

SSG Maples is on the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, team battling for first in the service class.

SSG Maples and his partner, SSG Brent Davis, were the only pair to score 35 out of 35 points on the night range estimation event.

“It’s more realistic,” said SSG Maples, of the events now gearing toward combat-related scenarios. “A majority of our operations in theater are done at night. Everybody has the saying ‘we own the night’ and it’s true. We have night-vision capability and the enemy doesn’t right now.”

At press time, five teams were in the running for the overall win: Two teams from the Special Forces Sniper School, two Marine Corps teams and a team from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Winners will be announced at an awards banquet today at 6 p.m. at the National Infantry Museum.