The National Guard Marksmanship Training Center's (NGMTC) Sniper School hosted 30 sniper and sharpshooting competitors at the second annual Inter-Service Sniper Sustainment Exercise (ISSTE) here at the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center Nov. 7-13.
The 15-event exercise was designed to evaluate sniper sustainment programs and challenge the shooters with their marksmanship and fieldcraft skills, while also providing an opportunity to have the teams exchange tactics and techniques with each other.
The winners of the ISSTE were Sgt. Daniel Gillian and Sgt. Jose Lucero from the Marine Scout Sniper School AITB. A total of 15 two-man teams represented the active Army, Rangers, Air Force and Marines, and teams from the Arkansas, Iowa and Montana National Guard.
"The combat-oriented training here was invaluable with the situations and real-world events that we were put through," said Sgt. Toby Morrison of the Montana National Guard. "With us being National Guard, we just don't have opportunities to do events like these and it's an awesome opportunity to shoot in this type of competition to work together as a team and fine tune our weak points."
During the course of the exercise, the shooters only knew some basic information about what they were going to encounter. Some of the sniper skills that were tested were: field firing, advanced marksmanship, heavy weapon firing, aerial platform gunnery, stalking and navigation. The teams did not know what was in store for them until right before the course of fire was about to start, and only then did they know what was going to take place.
"If you are in a hostile environment you are expected to employ your sniper skill set at any given time," said Capt. Adam Young, the ISSTE officer-in-charge. "It forces the competitors to use their critical thinking skills as opposed to an event that is a standard course of fire. The vast majority of the events involved engaging various targets at unknown distances, whereas most shooting competitions are fired from known distances. It gives them unique training opportunities that they normally don't get at the unit level and it opens up their minds to different training scenarios that they may not be already familiar with."
"Every skill that is represented here from shooting to stalking to range estimation is perishable," said Spc. Luke Roseen of the Montana National Guard. "To maintain these skills you need the training like we received here to make better snipers and soldiers."
The highlight for most of the teams was having the sniper and spotter firing from the platform of a hovering CH-47 helicopter while engaging static targets with a .50-caliber rifle and then, later in the flight, pop-up targets with a sniper rifle.
While the aerial platform shooting may have been a highlight, the consensus amongst everyone was that the nighttime escape and evasion land navigation course was the most difficult part of the exercise with many of the shooters showing the signs of cuts and scrapes due to battles with thorn bushes throughout the night.
The training that was received along with the interaction with the different competitors and services proved beneficial to the participants.
"Though competitive in nature, the teams were still willing to exchange ideas and equipment to help other teams throughout the exercise," said Young. "This made the atmosphere among the shooters more like a training exercise than purely a competition."
"We learned a lot of new tips from the other teams and we also saw some of the new equipment that is out there that hopefully one day we can utilize," said Spc. Dane Tillery of the Arkansas National Guard. "It was great training and it gave us an opportunity to get more views and information on what we do as snipers and when I go back to my section I'll impress upon them the need to spend more time with this type of training."