Soldiers from the Michigan Army National Guard, 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment, participated in sniper selection training at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, May 11-13, 2016. The intense training is designed to prepare infantry Soldiers for the formal U.S. Army Sniper School and training course. Training was conducted over the course of 36 hours and included grueling physical and mental challenges designed to highlight a sniper’s ability to remain focused and pay close attention to detail under extreme duress.
“I joined the infantry to be a sniper. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the “elite” and becoming a sniper will help me on my way to becoming a member of Special Forces,” said Spc. Matthew Fitzgerald of the 125th Infantry Battalion.
Approximately 50 infantrymen from the 125th applied for the 25 seats available in each year’s training session, a number that emphasizes the difficulty and prestige associated with attaining even the chance at being selected for attendance at USASS. From the 25 who are accepted for the initial training event, only five will be selected to undergo formal sniper training and be given the opportunity to serve with the 125th Infantry Battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company Sniper Section.
“This is one of the toughest training events our infantrymen will ever compete in,” said Sgt. John Rhodes, a Senior Sniper in the section. “We’re watching very closely to the attention to detail these guys put forth because it is a vital component to their success during formal training. If they can’t cut it now, they won’t cut it then, but we emphasize repeatedly how tough this is, making it this far is a great accomplishment in and of itself.”
One of the most challenging aspects that was highlighted during this training event surrounds itself around a sniper’s ability to pay close attention to detail and memorize what they encounter in the field. Before every training event sniper hopefuls are shown a number of various items and given only a few seconds to memorize the items in detail. Once the training event concludes, candidates are expected to be able to recite exactly which items they encountered.
“K.I.M.S. stands for Keep In Mind Sniper. It’s a mental exercise we do to display our ability to focus,” said Spc. Gabriel Coutier, a 125th sniper candidate. “The exercise helps us remember things in highly stressful environments and allows us to describe the enemy and the environment in microscopic detail. Some say this is an attention-to-detail exercise on steroids.”
The infantrymen are awarded points based on their performance of each training event and after a physical fitness assessment, memory tests, stress shoot, and a timed, six-mile forced ruck march with a 45 pound ruck sack, the five candidates with the most points earn attendance in the formal sniper training session.
“This is what every infantry Soldier dreams of doing. This is challenging both mentally and physically. We’ve had a great success rate with the guys we select to move on to the formal training and have seen a graduation rate of 100 percent from sniper school over the last few years. Going through this training gives us full confidence in the guys we send,” said 1st Lt. Marshal Halas, HHC Scout Platoon, 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment.