Snipers are masters of disguise who can hide in plain sight, providing surveillance, reconnaissance of enemy positions and, if necessary, eliminating threats.
“Nobody knows that you are there. I’m here. I am watching you, I can see everything you do, and someone is about to ruin your day, ”- First Sergeant. This was stated in a recent interview by Kevin Sipes, a Texas native and an experienced US Army sniper.
“We are capable of hurting you in many ways … We are not going to tell you how we are going. But we are following you. “
Business Insider asked a handful of trained army snipers, elite snipers who have gone through multiple combat operations in different countries, how they disappear in any and any environment. Here’s what they said.
An Army Green Beret sniper assigned to the 10th Special Forces (Airborne) Group takes aim at a distant target for timing during sniper training at Fort Carson, Colorado, December 12, 2018.
(Photo of the US Army by Sgt. Connor Mendes)
Stealth is putting everything that is possible between yourself and the watchful eyes of the enemy.
“The sniper is not limited to any one method,” explained Sipes, a veteran sniper with over a decade of experience. “We are absolutely free. You are limited only by what you are limiting yourself. “
Snipers use a mixture of natural and artificial materials to achieve camouflage and concealment to avoid enemy detection, as the sniper must remain undetected by the enemy to gather information or fire a shot if necessary. The goal is to effectively blend in with negative space, areas that are naturally overlooked by the eye.
Hiding from the enemy’s view means putting “everything you can between you and what can watch you,” said the staff sergeant. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, told BI, explaining that it could be natural vegetation, face paints, fake screens, sniper suits, or the skins they build.
The ghillie suit is designed with loose stripes that resemble a natural background, such as branches or long grass, and can make snipers almost invisible to the visual perception. Ghillie suits do not usually protect the wearer from detection by thermal imaging, a technology that the advanced military is likely to use; however, the army is developing an improved camouflage suit that is expected to provide increased protection.
With the tools they bring with them and materials found in the field, snipers can break and distort their shapes, making them much harder to spot.
Pfc. William Snyder, 1st-173rd Infantry Regiment, practices sniper camouflage at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, April 7, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sergeant William Fry)
In many ways, it is about knowing your environment.
“The best tool that snipers can use to hide and hide from the enemy is a clear understanding of the environment,” said BI Captain Greg Elgort, company commander.
Snipers need to know the terrain, plan their route and use everything that nature has to offer.
“I want to look at the area. What can I put between myself and the target, ”said Sipes, who runs a shooting training company with Elgort. It’s not just about face paint or what I attach to my body, it’s in the natural environment around me that I can use so they don’t see me. “
For example, the winners of the International Sniper Competition, two NCOs from the 3rd Army Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, disappeared from view only in the hood of a camouflage suit and various materials they found in the field.
In particular, they focused on hiding the face.
“Just by being able to disfigure and destroy their facial contours – you know, a human face stands out very clearly in a forest area – – by hiding their facial contours, they were able to win,” Elgort explained. “It really comes down to understanding it, knowing what you represent, and adjusting accordingly.”
Sergeant. Cheyne Walsh, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne, prepares to perform his camouflage exercises during a sniper training at Fort Benning.
(Patrick A. Albright / MCoE PAO photographer)
There are many little things that can be fatal if ignored.
Snipers must manage their trails, scent, shadows, highlights and a host of other things to stay hidden from enemies. “To become a sniper, you need to be able to understand millions of things, and in all of them you need to be able to understand well,” explained Sipes.
Here are just a few of the many things snipers should think about.
“If you look east in the morning, the sun will be approaching you, so you need to do something with the telescope to prevent glare,” Elgort told BI. To combat this problem, snipers build cat eyes.
“We use natural vegetation, we use wrappers, meshes and whatever to block the optics from any observation, but allow us to see through it,” Sipes said, noting that other considerations include whether he stands out on background of something else. The shadow could betray his position by exposing him to the enemy.
In terms of smells, he said snipers avoid scented soaps, smoking, any colognes, deodorants, etc.
In colder climates, the sniper may eat snow to hide his breath, but this only works for a short time. “You have to eat snow all the time and then you have to write,” Smith said, referring to another potential consideration.
Snipers also need to think about bodily fluids. Sometimes, when nature calls, the sniper uses bags of sponges to soak his business. They can also bury it in the ground. Other times, they just need to hold it.
U.S. Army Sergeant. John Stewart, a sniper assigned to a NATO battle group in Poland, improves his combat position during a contact training response exercise at the Bemowo Piske training ground, Poland, November 8, 2018.
(Photo by US Army Sergeant Sarah Kirby)
Some environments are simpler than others.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Jones, another sniper instructor, identified two distinctly difficult environments to hide – fresh snow and an urban environment.
“You can disappear into the snow. We need to think a little more. Mixing is a little more difficult to play with, ”he told BI. “And in the urban environment so many people are looking at you from the very beginning that it is quite difficult for you to get into your installation, not knowing that someone is already there.”
Locations such as cities and suburbs are also the most difficult locations to shoot.
“I can say that the most challenging location to shoot is in the urban environment,” Sipes said, noting some angles and design obstructing the view, among other issues.
“The targets are mostly moving. There are civilians around them. They use the patterns of life on earth to hide themselves. And they are never in the same place, ”he added.
As for the easiest environment to merge into, it’s definitely your standard forest or jungle, Jones explained.
The sniper’s belly, hidden under branches and weeds, lies on the ground, dirt and soot on his face. All that can be seen in the Cheatgrass bundles is a pair of gazing, gazing eyes.
(Photo of the United States Air Force National Guard by Master Sergeant Becky Vanshur)
One of the biggest dangers is that new technologies make it difficult for snipers to take cover.
The United States is once again in a state of rivalry with other military powers, which means that it must learn to deal with more serious threats from adversaries such as China and Russia.
“Defeating the heat signature is probably the hardest thing a sniper has to do, especially with the new technology coming to our closest enemies,” Smith told BI. Snipers can hide in the visible range, but it is difficult to deal with high-tech sensors.
US rivals are beginning to “sneak into the heat arena, and that in itself is dangerous for the sniper, because then it is impossible to hide from it,” Smith said. Thermal imagers can easily detect the heat of the human body compared to the ambient temperature around it.
Smith called this a “big problem” and the army is “working to overcome it.”
Sometimes it means going back to basics. Snipers often use laser rangefinders to get more accurate targeting, but this is not always an option.
“When confronting a near-peer threat, or an adversary who has the ability to identify it, we must rely solely on the reticle included in our scope,” said the staff sergeant. Christopher Rance, a sniper instructor team sergeant from Colorado, explained.
There are also new camouflage systems, such as Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System, capable of providing more robust infrared, thermal and anti-radar performance, which are under development to help army snipers and other soldiers hide from more complex threats.
Military action is constantly evolving, which means that US snipers must be prepared for anything.
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