View Full Version : Sniper's skills keep buddies alive

27 Dec 03,, 04:59
Sniper's skills keep buddies alive
Fri Dec 26, 6:07 AM ET
By Matthew Cox, Special for USA TODAY

The sun was sinking at the desert's edge when Sgt. Randall Davis, an Army sniper, spotted his target: an armed Iraqi on a rooftop about 300 yards away.

"It was just getting dark. I saw a guy step in front of the light," Davis, 25, recalls.

He says he knew he was watching another sniper by the way the man stepped back into the shadows and crept along the roofline to spy on a squad from his unit, B Company of the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, known as the "5-20."

"Most people, when they get on a roof, will just move around and do what they've got to do," Davis says. "This guy was moving slowly, trying to have smooth motions, trying to stay in the shadows."

From his own rooftop position, Davis tracked the man through the sight of his M-14 rifle.

He didn't have to wait long before the enemy sniper made another mistake. "He silhouetted his rifle from the waist up, trying to look over at the guys in the courtyard."

Davis fired one shot. "I hit him in the chest. He fell back. His rifle flew out of his hands."

It was Davis' eighth confirmed kill. Earlier, he had killed seven enemy fighters in a single day.

The Army began teaching urban sniper techniques five months before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as part of a five-week sniper course at Fort Benning in Georgia. Even before 9/11 intensified the nation's fight against terrorism, Army leaders had recognized that traditional sniper techniques - lying prone or stalking prey in the open - would not work well in a world where terrorists hit and run from city buildings and busy streets.

Clearing Samara
Davis' encounter with the rooftop sniper took place Dec. 18 on the second night of "Ivy Blizzard," a combat operation aimed at clearing guerrillas from this city of 250,000. Samara is a nest of insurgent activity in the "Sunni Triangle," an area west and north of Baghdad where support for former leader Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) remains strong among Sunni Muslims.

The operation is being carried out by the 5-20's parent unit - the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based in Fort Lewis in Washington state - and by the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson in Colorado.

Snipers had attacked soldiers of the 5-20 three days before the rooftop encounter. "We had been engaged by snipers in here before, so I was hoping it was the same guy," says Davis, a native of Nashville. "It's kind of a professional insult to get shot at by another sniper."

The Army sniper school's urban-training course includes lessons on concealment, shooting positions and more. The Army has been adding more snipers to field units as part of its transformation to a more mobile and lethal force.

The 5-20 uses the new Stryker combat vehicle that is part of the transformation. Leaders of the brigade say their snipers have been able to limit civilian casualties in this guerrilla-style fight.

B Company's two-man sniper teams provide protection from hit-and-run attackers and perform countersniper work. "These guys are invaluable to our mission," says B Company commander Capt. Damien Mason, 29, from Kihei, Hawaii.

Davis has been working in two-man teams for two years. He's a spotter and mentor for his less-experienced teammate, Spc. Chris Wilson. In many cases, the situation dictates who takes the shot. But Davis has done most of the shooting since his unit began operating in Samara Dec. 14.

Davis has taken most of his shots while on the move, from distances of 100-300 yards. On Dec. 20, he killed one sniper with a single shot from a .50-caliber XM-107 rifle from 750 yards away.

"This is the first time I have in ever been in a combat situation," Davis says. "Really, it was just like targets downrange. You just hit your target and acquire your next target.

"I thought I'd have a harder time shooting," he says. "Shooting someone is pretty unnatural."

A professional
B Company 1st Sgt. Ray Hernandez calls Davis one of the best non-commissioned officers in the unit. "He's very professional, one of those NCOs where you tell him to do a job, and he does it," says Hernandez, who is from El Paso.

Mason, the B Company commander, agrees. "He will make things happen," Mason says. "He will get the mission done no matter what."

Davis says the toughest part of the deployment is that it means a year away from his wife and 6-year-old son. But serving in a war zone is the opportunity to fulfill a dream he's had since he was a kid. "It's one of those things I wanted to do since I was 12," he says.

Reading about famous snipers was a favorite pastime. Among his role models: Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, a Marine sniper in Vietnam with 98 confirmed kills; and Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shugart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, two Delta Force snipers who died in Somalia in 1993 trying to rescue the crew of a downed Black Hawk helicopter.

That made it easy to take on a job he describes as a more humane way of fighting an enemy who can easily blend in with civilians.

"I just thought it was a very smart way to fight a war - very lethal, very precise," he says. "Every shot you take, you know exactly where the bullet is going."

Sniper Sgt. Randall Davis peers down the holographic scope of the M-14 sniper rifle he used during operations in and around Samarra. Since mid-December, Davis has been credited with eight confirmed kills and two “probables,” a count no soldier in the brigade has matched.

Spc. Christopher Wilson, left, and Sgt. Randall Davis, a sniper team for Bravo Company, 5th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 20th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, hold sniper rifles used during operations in and around Samarra. Leaders maintain that the Stryker brigade’s abundance of snipers is ideal for limiting collateral damage and civilian casualties during guerilla-style fighting.

Officer of Engineers
27 Dec 03,, 06:09
The Iraqi sniper feels extremely familiar.

27 Dec 03,, 22:32
"It's kind of a professional insult to get shot at by another sniper."

It's nowhere near as insulting as getting shot by another sniper... ;)

Good article, thanx for posting it. :)

28 Dec 03,, 16:10
Im just wondering, but are there any plans to replace the M21 sniper rifle, its been in service since Vietnam?

29 Dec 03,, 09:52
The M-21 was officially replaced in 1987 by the M-24.

The M-21 however does remain popular among units that still have them because of it's tremendous firepower(for a sniper rifle).

Multiple engagements are child's play with the M-14/21/25, hence it's continuing popularity.

I would also point out that this soldier was performing more in the role of the squad designated marksman than that of the classical scout/sniper.

One look at his optics makes that obvious.

BTW, the snipers i most admire are Vasiliy Zietsev and Adelbert F. Waldron III.

03 Jan 04,, 02:48
I know who Vasili Zaitsev is, but whos Adelbert F. Waldron III?

03 Jan 04,, 02:54
The top US Sniper of the Vietnam war.

He had 109 confirmed kills operating in the Mekong valley region.

He used an M-21.

03 Jan 04,, 16:35
I really liked the character of Vasiliy Zietsev in Enemy At The Gates even though the movie itself was somewhat flawed. I've been trying to find info online about the real Comrade Zietsev because of the movie.
I'm almost positive that Tom Clancy patterned an elderly Russian sniper in The Bear And The Dragon after Zietsev.

04 Jan 04,, 01:48
I would tend to agree.

Enemy at the gates was just terrible though...

04 Jan 04,, 06:23
Things I liked about Enemy At The Gates:

The opening scene of the Volga river crossing.

The initial Red Army assault that gets Zietsev stranded

Zietsev's first kills while stranded

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev totally bitching out his men, promising dire consequences for failure. (That Russian nodding towards Commisar Danilov is absolutely priceless)

Any scene with Ed Harris as Major König, especially when he discovers that young Sacha Filipov is really working for the Soviets: "My little Sacha...I knew it...

18 Jan 04,, 03:34
One thing about the newer war movies is that they're trying to make them chick flicks at the same time.

Examples: Pearl Harbor, Enemy at the Gates

My grandpa was driving back to the farm on a cold December morning when it came on the radio the Pearl Harbor was attacked. When he saw the ads on TV for the movie, he thought it was going to be great.

My grandma gave me a call and told me that me and my brother had to go to the theater with him, that this was a very important thing for him.

He left the theater disappointed. He had gone to see a war movie, and there was about 30 minutes of war and 3 hours of drama.

18 Jan 04,, 03:35
I totally agree, one recent movie that didn't do that was We Were Soldiers.

18 Jan 04,, 17:12
Whenever I've had access to the DVD of Pearl Harbor, I've simply used that wonderful Track Ahead feature to get to the good parts....well, sort of good parts

19 Jan 04,, 03:47
I have it on DVD.... have yet to watch it though.

29 Jan 04,, 10:53
I'm especially fond of the Japanese attack on Spruance class DD's....lol.

Pearl Harbor was pretty bad, and that chick is a traitorous slut....lol.