Battalion snipers on target
Four firing stations face outwards to all points of the compass, picking up every nuance of the swiftly changing breeze.
Two dozen Army snipers and sniper team leaders are consolidating the lessons of a 10-day training concentration under the guidance of Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) personnel.
“This is the third year the regiment has conducted the Sniper Concentration, providing development and training opportunities for battalion snipers outside of their own units,” SASR sniper Cpl L said.
“We achieve that by using a competition-based atmosphere where guys are under self-induced stress – you’re competing, there’s unit pride up for grabs.”
Competitors participated in scored range shoots, observational exercises and range estimation exercises, both static and live fire, and in live-fire stalks in rural and urban environments.
The Swanbourne Special Range Facility at Campbell Barracks and the Lancelin and Bindoon training areas were used.
“These competitors are all competent snipers, having passed their basic sniper course and some have gone on to do their team leaders course,” Cpl L said.
“Now’s the time for them to step up and demonstrate their proficiency and experience within their specialist skill set.
“There’s nowhere to hide; at the end of the two weeks the scores will tell the story.”
Weapons used are the SR98 7.62mm bolt-action sniper rifle, SR25 semi-automatic 7.62mm rifle, H&K 417 7.62mm semi-automatic weapon, .50 calibre Barrett semi-automatic anti-materiel weapon, and the primary operational sniper weapon, the Blaser .338, with choice of 7.62mm barrel.
Some are new to the participants.
“If they haven’t had an opportunity to gain a particular weapon qualification we’ll provide the training and assessment for them,” Cpl L said.
Darwin-based Pte Ryan Lee, of 5RAR, completed his basic sniper course eight weeks before the concentration.
“No other soldier in the battalion would get to share something as good as this – this kind of training with these guys in Perth,” Pte Lee said.
Cpl Matthew Mack, a sniper for two years, led the 5RAR team.
“It’s a good learning experience, doing a lot of different shooting that we wouldn’t otherwise get to do,” Cpl Mack said.
“The ranges are different to what we have in Darwin so it’s good experience to shoot in different environments.”
Six weapons were in use, compared with just three in the battalion, and participants shot more than 600 rounds during the concentration.
“That’s more than we get to shoot in the battalion in a year,”
Cpl Mack said.
“We are getting exposed to some new techniques that end in being able to engage targets faster. That’s good because we can take back the lessons to the lads in the cell.”
Pte Morgan Preston, of 6RAR, has been a sniper for 18 months and said he learnt a lot.
“As team leaders we learnt how to give orders and brief officers, but here we’ve improved our shooting tenfold,” he said.
“We’ve learnt to engage targets in four-to-six seconds out to 600m, whereas before that would take us a minute.
“There’s stuff we’ll take back to the battalion that’s incredibly useful that we’d never be aware of unless we came here.”
Pte Simon Lancaster, of 7RAR, recently qualified as a sniper team leader.
“There are a few different drills here that were not taught on course – different ways to solve a problem, more knowledge of ballistics and heaps more rounds downrange than we normally do,” he said
Cpl L said the competition reinforced the same skills taught at battalion level.
“It’s a worthwhile exercise for all involved,” he said.
“Every member who participated has been exposed to a stressful environment. Sure it’s just a competition, but without running or sleep deprivation associated with operations, where else can you be lying prone on a sterile range with a heart rate around 150bpm trying to release that perfect shot. How do you train for that situation?
“I’d rather have an idea of what my body is about to be put through and develop a plan for that, before finding out on operations when it’s just you and your rifle.”
Participants showed some interest in progressing to Special Forces, but Cpl L said that was not the focus.
“There’s been some pushback from some of the units that we’re trying to poach their best blokes,” he said.
“That’s not the case. It happens to be a happy by-product. The guys see a ‘day-in-the-life’ of the regiment, but that’s a secondary effect.
“At the end of the day their unit has to nominate them for selection and there are no free passes. You have to fit the mould at the end of selection.”
In the final tally, SASR came from behind to win, with 1RAR second and 7RAR third.