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Old 08-19-2009   #1
Kiwigrunt
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Default Are snipers and recon still valid in infantry battalions?

On posts 14 and 15 of this thread Jcustis suggested and Ken linked this 7.4 Mb pdf called ‘Scouts out’.

Interesting link, thanks for posting it.
Haven’t read the whole thing yet, just the conclusion. (No, I don’t do that when I read novels)

From the conclusion (page 202 / 203)
Quote:
Instead of being a function of specialized troops, perhaps reconnaissance is one of many functions of maneuver units similar to attack, defend, or move. Commanders cannot misuse units if they are organized and equipped to perform a variety of functions, of which reconnaissance is but one. So organized, former reconnaissance units will provide more flexible employment similar to the interchangeable modular brigades. As one of many similar units, they will not require augmentation. The heavy-light debate will then become moot or part of a larger discussion over the equipping of general-purpose forces.
So as not to digress from that original thread which is about armoured recon units, I’ve started a new one to see if the conclusions from this article can be applied to infantry battalions. This conclusion is conceptually (I think) what Jcustis and Wilf seem to suggest (on another thread which I can’t find back) with regards to dedicated snipers at battalion level. With other words, doing away with them. Just for clarification, they suggest DMR’s as opposed to snipers, so as not to loose the ‘sharp shooting’ aspect.
Or is their surveillance role (still combined with sniping?), as apposed to their recon role, under the S2 still useful, as this part of the conclusion may suggest:

(page 205)
Quote:
The technical aspects of reconnaissance that do not require routine interface with enemy forces and rely on specialized equipment, such as radars, are usually referred to collectively as surveillance operations. Surveillance operations do require specialized troops. However, the functions of such troops are clearly in the realm of combat support, not combat, and more properly belong in military intelligence support units rather than in combat squadrons.

And for as far as those snipers are part of a recon platoon, that platoon could then be renamed / re-rolled as a surveillance platoon…..

Another reason I can think of to keep snipers employed would be for counter-sniping


…..hmmm, food for thought, any takers?


PS: Schmedlap, I like your leather personnel carriers. Are the soles V-shaped?
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Old 08-19-2009   #2
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Infantry battalions have mortars, yet brigades have howitzers.

Infantry squads have designated marksmen, yet battalions should have a sniper plt.

A KISS drive might eliminate such partial redundancies, but that doesn't appear to be optimal to me.

Specialization advantages, a pool of expertise and the ability to attach experts to units based on their needs look promising to me.
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Old 08-19-2009   #3
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Default Yes.

Snipers shape (and destroy) , and snipers and recon inform, Both are vital at the tactical level in cOIN,

Cheers

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Old 08-19-2009   #4
William F. Owen
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My beef/ concerns are basically as follows.

Precise effect, long range rifleman are good. No argument. Hitting folks with one shot at 6-900m is a capability I want in Companies and Platoons as part of my fire support.

I also want an STA capability, to call in fires and conduct observation - that may include operating a small UAV -. Do I want the same men doing the same job and the same time? My opinion is that I do not.
I want to simplify "Sniping" down to long range fire support, and build it as an individual skill based on some degree of natural ability.
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Old 08-19-2009   #5
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Default yes, full agree,

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
My beef/ concerns are basically as follows.

Precise effect, long range rifleman are good. No argument. Hitting folks with one shot at 6-900m is a capability I want in Companies and Platoons as part of my fire support.

I also want an STA capability, to call in fires and conduct observation - that may include operating a small UAV -. Do I want the same men doing the same job and the same time? My opinion is that I do not.
I want to simplify "Sniping" down to long range fire support, and build it as an individual skill based on some degree of natural ability.
But no one said that snipers were an 'in lieu' item for effective ISTAR systems on the battlefield. In sucessful armys they are a complimentary.

regards

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Old 08-19-2009   #6
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But no one said that snipers were an 'in lieu' item for effective ISTAR systems on the battlefield. In sucessful armys they are a complimentary.
OK, so why do I want my limited sniper manpower grouped off, with "ISTAR" and not in the platoons?
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Old 08-19-2009   #7
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I want to simplify "Sniping" down to long range fire support, and build it as an individual skill based on some degree of natural ability.
Exactly. And just because artillery forward observers and snipers are both trained, professional observers doesn't mean they belong in the same platoon.
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Old 08-19-2009   #8
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Default Where's the beef...

Sorry, old US TV commerical allegory...

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
...Hitting folks with one shot at 6-900m is a capability I want in Companies and Platoons as part of my fire support.
Agree.
Quote:
I also want an STA capability, to call in fires and conduct observation - that may include operating a small UAV -. Do I want the same men doing the same job and the same time? My opinion is that I do not.
Disagree.

All the UAVs and technical means in town cannot replace a good scout. Good scouts are born, not made and there aren't many of them about -- but a good one is worth his weight in Kiwi Fruit and can do things no gadget will ever do. Even a mediocre scout is better than not having one. We may get to the point in future where that is no longer true -- but at this time, it certainly is.

My belief is that the 'snipers / DM / whatever you want to call them' should not be in the Scout organization. While those shooters, like every other Infantryman are ISTAR sources and good ones, their primary aim is different (pun intended). "Shooters over here, you Scouts go out and play..."

Thus you have the shooters at Company level -- I'd go for Platoon level, one team each, Co Cdr to pull for some missions (or give him a team also). With maybe a couple of teams at Bn level; senior NCO to be the shooter trainer, working for the S3.

A Scout Section working for the S2. A platoon is probably more than are needed, 10-12 for a Bn should be adequate for most purposes. They should operate purely in a stealth, sneak and peek mode, lightly armed to preclude getting into firefights. Many in combat carried just a pistol for that reason.

Purely light Infantry should have just that Scout Section. Old style heavy or standard infantry and mechanized infantry, all with vehicles should have, in addition to the Scouts, a mounted Reconnaissance or Cavalry Platoon able to fight for information. Light Infantry should never be put in a situation where that's required (but they should be able to employ an OpCon or Attached Cavalry Troop).

My experience in doing jobs like that for a fair number of years is that most S2/S3 and Commanders do not really know how to employ their Scouts or Recce elements. Thus the Scouts Out contention that most dedicated recce units end up as minor combat units. That has been true but need not be as that result is directly attributable to my observation.

Said Scouts and Recce/Recon Platoons should not be used as a palace or commanders guard. Ever.
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Old 08-19-2009   #9
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Default To just take this is a slightly real world perspective

The problem in Afghanistan, and sometimes in Iraq from what I have heard, is not that snipers cannot do their job, or that the Battalion doesn't have enough people, but that they cannot effectively patrol based on restrictions placed by higher. These restrictions are that units must have a minimal manning to leave the wire, and often that manning is more than a scout team needs to be effective.

My thoughts are FOs have a role, recon soldiers have a role and snipers have a role in combat (both high intensity maneuver and counter-insurgency). If I were king of the Army, and I am not, I would designated marksman at the platoon level, sniper teams at the company level, a purely recon/scout platoon for the infantry battalion, then an additional sniper platoon at the battalion level. Basically, after months engaging an enemy at distances always greater than 500 meters, I don't think you can have too much long range marksmanship.
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Old 08-19-2009   #10
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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
My experience in doing jobs like that for a fair number of years is that most S2/S3 and Commanders do not really know how to employ their Scouts or Recce elements. Thus the Scouts Out contention that most dedicated recce units end up as minor combat units. That has been true but need not be as that result is directly attributable to my observation.
I wonder how much of this has its roots in the Army's early historical practice (prior to World War I, to put 'early' in context) of farming out a great deal of the "sneaking and peaking" side of recon to either private contractor-types or highly-specialized units (often of an ad-hoc nature)?
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Old 08-20-2009   #11
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Quote:
Or is their surveillance role (still combined with sniping?), as apposed to their recon role, under the S2 still useful, as this part of the conclusion may suggest:
Snipers should snipe (along with employ long-range indirect fires) AND conduct surveillance. They should not attempt reconnaissance as a primary mission set...at least not snipers organized within a battalion.

USMC sniper platoons used to be uniformly referred to as STA Plts, (or Surveillance, Target, Acquisition). In that role, they are great for our MEU capabilities. I think we quickly learned that bad habits can crop up when you try to employ a sniper team in a thoroughly hostile environment of Iraq, while utilizing TTP best suited to a semi-permissive environment found in a peacekeeping/enforcement or non-combatant evacuation type op.

Ken was right when he talked about:

Quote:
Old style heavy or standard infantry and mechanized infantry, all with vehicles should have, in addition to the Scouts, a mounted Reconnaissance or Cavalry Platoon able to fight for information.
Being able to fight for information is a key component of the doctrine...the "what you should do" aspect of doctrine. He is also right when he concurs with the contention that dedicated recce units typically become minor combat units. That's what I was getting at with the other thread that USMC LAR units are great at execution but could use work at planning. It was a light-hearted cut at the fact that we will always be glad to bite off more than we can realistically chew, while we are executing tasks that some might call reconnaissance, but we would refer to as a good old fashioned movement to contact, or vice versa.. It is bred into us, after all, despite the cavalry blood that also runs through our veins...having a 25mm cannon can be a intoxicating thing sometimes .

Successive OIF rotations have had an adverse impact on our core competencies though, since there has been a whole lotta commuting to work for several years, through the same terrain, villages, and road networks.

I've done both straight-legged infantry and light armored recon time, and though I haven't done specialized recon time the likes of Division or Force Recon (which are different beasts anyway), I don't think there is a need for any recon formation within a battalion. Companies can do it well enough alone, and are in fact supposed to do that as a functi0on of the types of combat patrols under RACES. Our doctrine says as much here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/18404280/U...ling-MCWP-3113

If it is a frontage or depth issue, than call in a specialized asset that can accomplish what you need. Surprisingly enough, collecting the information isn't what I think requires the advanced training, it is the reporting piece that requires the extra effort, because you have to report what you know, and add the assessment in only at the end (and sometimes only when specifically asked).

That's a tall order for the coy commander who has been bred to do just about everything with an eye towards recommending a course of action as soon as he makes contact. If he is a GP infantry guy, he may think more in terms of defend, attack, or fix so someone else can attack, whereas I might think more in terms of finding the seam, or bypassing. based on my bypass criteria.

Interesting thread though kiwigrunt. It'll be interesting to se how it pans out.
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Old 08-20-2009   #12
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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
Thus you have the shooters at Company level -- I'd go for Platoon level, one team each, Co Cdr to pull for some missions (or give him a team also). With maybe a couple of teams at Bn level; senior NCO to be the shooter trainer, working for the S3.
It seems that snipers have usually been employed most effectively at battalion level. Having said that, company commanders could most likely use a true sniping capability, not just "designated marksmen."

I've mentioned before that I like the idea of a "sharpshooter type" rifle squad led by a senior staff sergeant in a rifle company's weapons platoon. The squad should be big enough to attach a team (or two?) of DMs out to each rifle platoon and have a team left under the company commander's control. Platoon leaders could further attach the DMs directly to a squad if necessary for operations but I don't like the idea of DMs living with a rifle squad full time even if it's been done successfully before.

Use the arms room concept: the teams attached to rifle platoons would likely operate with semi-auto rifles with the team(s) employed by the company commander using bolt rifles or a .50 Barrett, mission dependant.

This squad should also be a natural for things like LP/OP duty or other types of screening.
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Old 08-20-2009   #13
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Default Couple of thoughts...

Jon:

It's not that the Rifle Cos can't / aren't patrolling and plunking in beaucoup Intel, the reasons for a Bn Scout section are to avoid having to task a Co to provide a patrol that would take people away from their Sector or Zone for those EEI that the S2 identifies that do not fall clearly in the areas assigned to a Co; to provide some Intel trained eyes that can notice things that the Co patrols might miss due to personnel turbulence, casualties/replacements, etc.; Provide people that can give a good full bore report -- a trained observer and reporter is better than a good one. It allows for special training in forensic examination, document review, Rifle Co Recon Patrol debriefs and other good stuff without having to cull from the Cos some who might have had such training -- I can go on for another hour.

However, I do acknowledge that they would have / have had limited use in most Bn AOs in Iraq. They probably would have little employment in Afghanistan in current reality but that job is tailor made for such a section -- provided the Theater Commander had the testicular fortitude required to let 'em be sent out.

In a mid intensity or high intensity situation, they'll earn their money many times over. Partly due to Rifle Co casualties and personnel turnover.

Not a frontage issue in all cases but it can be -- it is a depth issue in the sense that the Rifle Co Recon (Combat patrols are a separate animal and they belong to the Cos and not to the Scout sect) Patrols should normally go out no more than 10-15 km, max, generally less -- and METT-TC dependent -- so they run about 4 hours out and 4 back, max (with 4-6 total being better and with no overnight stays) the Scout Sec, OTOH should be prepared for three to five day patrols in bad guy territory or up to about 30 km out. Not everyone grooves on that-- or can do it. Div Recon should be used for the stuff from 30-100km out while Force Recon can do the strategic stuff beyond 100km.

What usually happens in peacetime is the Sections get cut, the Rifle Cos get tabbed to do things they should not and Div gets called in to do what should be the Bn's job while force is busy with other things (That from a former Div [war] and Force [peace] guy ).

Rifleman:

You said:
Quote:
:It seems that snipers have usually been employed most effectively at battalion level..."
Is that because that's where they've been placed most of the time due to fear of unsupervised NCOs shooting the wrong people or because that's really the most effective location?
Quote:
"Having said that, company commanders could most likely use a true sniping capability, not just "designated marksmen."
I'd think so -- not least because in Korea there were snipers in most rifle companies in the 1st Mar Div -- some had 'em down to Platoon level. Some units in Viet Nam did the same thing, most didn't bother but the decision was generally based on the terrain and vegetation the unit operated in -- not much call for 5-800m shots in triple canopy...

What's your objection to the DM being / staying part of the squad?

Why would you go with a .50 at Co level? For that matter, why go with a bolt gun in the Co?
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Old 08-20-2009   #14
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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
What's your objection to the DM being / staying part of the squad?
For some of the same reasons that crew served weapons are usually kept seperate for training and garrison and attached out as needed. It seems to me that snipers and DMs would better trained under the supervision of a senior staff sergeant with sniper experience instead of a rifle squad leader who might not have any.

Quote:
Why would you go with a .50 at Co level?
It wouldn't have to be a .50 but wouldn't it be benificial for the company commander have some kind of heavy rifle available?

Quote:
For that matter, why go with a bolt gun in the Co?
Why, because you're just not a real sniper without a bolt rifle. Think about it. With a semi-auto you actually have to wait for gas to cycle the action before firing again, while a good man with a bolt rifle can.....

Seriously though, I was just thinking that a semi-auto isn't as necessary once you're removed some distance from the firefight and perhaps operating in something closer to a true sniper role instead of a DM role, plus the M24 is still in the system and will be for some time, won't it?

But I'd be less concerned about what rifle is used and more concerned about grouping all snipers/DMs into a single squad for training and admin. MGs do it that way, mortars do it that way, anti-armor does it that way, etc. Sometimes those weapons mass and sometimes they're attached out. Seems to me that concept sould also work well with snipers/DMs at rifle company level, that's all.

As always, Sergeant Major, I look forward to your rebuttal!
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Old 08-20-2009   #15
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Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
Disagree.
I'm not sure you do!

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All the UAVs and technical means in town cannot replace a good scout. Good scouts are born, not made and there aren't many of them about -- but a good one is worth his weight in Kiwi Fruit and can do things no gadget will ever do. Even a mediocre scout is better than not having one. We may get to the point in future where that is no longer true -- but at this time, it certainly is.
Concur. There are good "stalkers / scouts." Yes, if you can find them and train them, then they are a positive asset.
I am not suggesting we replace that capability with UAVs, but some of the new tactical UAV capabilities are extremely impressive, and also combat proven. My point being, let's not confuse, Sniping/Scouting and STA as all being the same thing. They are not.
Quote:
My belief is that the 'snipers / DM / whatever you want to call them' should not be in the Scout organization. While those shooters, like every other Infantryman are ISTAR sources and good ones, their primary aim is different (pun intended). "Shooters over here, you Scouts go out and play..."
Yes I agree. Different jobs, so different people doing different things, but that becomes very hard to sustain, when you have "sniper training" that emphasises an STA type task, and the reason it does comes purely from WW1, and trench warfare.
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- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 08-20-2009   #16
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For some of the same reasons that crew served weapons are usually kept seperate for training and garrison and attached out as needed. It seems to me that snipers and DMs would better trained under the supervision of a senior staff sergeant with sniper experience instead of a rifle squad leader who might not have any.
Totally agree with your logic but not the solution. First, a key distinction is just that 'crew served' -- keep the 'crew' together in both garrison and combat. Recall also that all the crew served weapons we have are best employed in multiples (yes, even the Javelin) so keeping the crew together for cohesion makes sense, training them altogether makes sense. Employing then together makes sense.

The designated marksman, to be most effective in combat should part of a crew involved in the fire and maneuver business. That crew is the squad so that's where he or she should be. The training issue in garrison is easily solved by scheduling the DM sustainment training so that they all get together under the senior Co (or Bn) DM / Sniper. In my view, you'd have two Sniper * tms at Co, a DM in every squad and the senior Sniper becomes the Co DM trainer. if there's also a Bn Sniper Tm or section, the leader becomes the Bn Master Shooter and oversees training.

Let me caveat all that by saying that's a here and now answer to your point. In a dream world, all the Squad Leaders (and thus the PSG) would have been DMs and would thus know how important the job was and would not neglect the training which they could conduct themselves. I'll add that 'dream' isn't at all hard to achieve -- all it would take is will power and an acknowledgment by the Army (and Congress) that not everyone who sticks around long enough and keeps his nose clean needs to be a Squad Leader...
Quote:
It wouldn't have to be a .50 but wouldn't it be benificial for the company commander have some kind of heavy rifle available?
Yeah but I'd go with a .338 or similar on weight aspects.
Quote:
Why, because you're just not a real sniper without a bolt rifle. Think about it. With a semi-auto you actually have to wait for gas to cycle the action before firing again, while a good man with a bolt rifle can.....
Yeah, yeah -- lot of tha going around...
Quote:
Seriously though, I was just thinking that a semi-auto isn't as necessary once you're removed some distance from the firefight and perhaps operating in something closer to a true sniper role instead of a DM role, plus the M24 is still in the system and will be for some time, won't it?
Valid on all counts. My though is that to preclude identification by the other guys shooters and on logistic grounds, all the weapons in the Co that can possibly be similar should be, the more they all look and operate alike, the easier your training and the better to conphooze the evil enema. not a big thing, though...
Quote:

But I'd be less concerned about what rifle is used and more concerned about grouping all snipers/DMs into a single squad for training and admin...Seems to me that concept sould also work well with snipers/DMs at rifle company level, that's all...As always, Sergeant Major, I look forward to your rebuttal!
here's my re -- the buttal was up above...

I hear you but I think that's a peace and not a warfighting approach -- it also neglects the fact that 'attachments' in combat do not work well, a guy cannot work for two masters and that the DM is an individual with an individual weapon as opposed to a crew with a crew served weapon. Combat cohesion is critical...

A lot of our poor structuring is a result of trying to make life easy in garrison and in peace time; unfortunately, while it works well there it often is a minor problem -- sometimes a major one -- in combat where there are so many bigger problems that the minor ones are overlooked. Not a good way to do it, IMO.

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Old 08-20-2009   #17
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Default I see, said the blind man...

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I'm not sure you do!... My point being, let's not confuse, Sniping/Scouting and STA as all being the same thing. They are not.
I see -- and I agree...
Quote:
..."sniper training" that emphasises an STA type task, and the reason it does comes purely from WW1, and trench warfare.
I also agree with you on the 'Sniper' problem but I'm lazy and use the term as shorthand for 'An individual with an effective long range weapon and sighting appendage designated to fire at high value targets, materiel and personnel with a strong probability of success who is part of the fire support effort.' (thus my Asterisk in the post above to Rifleman when I meant to clarify that I was using the inappropriate term due to intrinsic sedentariosis, an affliction with which I have long suffered. ).

I am working on an acronym...
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Old 08-20-2009   #18
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I am working on an acronym...
How about sharp shooter? The acronym for that would be.......ooohps.
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Old 08-20-2009   #19
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Wilf, could you elaborate your this thought in this thread context.

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PBID essentially suggests that you train, organize, and operate light infantry in a way that best utilizes their inherent strengths. In practice, this means that you train infantry to accomplish two basic tasks, these being a reconnaissance patrol and an observation post. These two core skills are built on a high level of individually developed field-craft skills. In simplistic but easily understood terms, you train Soldiers as snipers and then train them as a recce platoon.
Quote:
Why? Surely this is completely against the teaching that only the brightest, best, and most experienced of infantry unit Soldiers become snipers and members of the recce platoons.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...g=content;col1

Ken White porposed his definition of sniper:

Quote:
An individual with an effective long range weapon and sighting appendage designated to fire at high value targets, materiel and personnel with a strong probability of success who is part of the fire support effort.
I think that this is more appropriate to define designated marksman. I'd like to borrow sniper's definition from Mark Spicer's book "Illustrated manual of sniper skills."

Quote:
Sniping is the employment of individual shooters from concealed positions with no warning, from any distance, depending on the range of the weapon. This is not to say, of course , that to maximize the chances of sniper surviving to fight again, the longer the distance between him and the victim the better. Conversely, if the sniper is able to conceal himself and endage successfully at close range, then that is also sniping.
Page 18,
http://books.google.com/books?id=B5u...age&q=&f=false

Last Gun's and Ammo "Book of AR-15" has short article "The Art of the SDM". If understand correctly (with my limited knowledge of English) Army is outsourceing training from civilian shooting community.
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Old 08-20-2009   #20
Kiwigrunt
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Ken White's sniper:
Quote:
An individual with an effective long range weapon and sighting appendage designated to fire at high value targets, materiel and personnel with a strong probability of success who is part of the fire support effort.
Kaur:
Quote:
I think that this is more appropriate to define designated marksman. I'd like to borrow sniper's definition from Mark Spicer's book "Illustrated manual of sniper skills."
Mark Spicer's sniper through Kaur:
Quote:
Sniping is the employment of individual shooters from concealed positions with no warning, from any distance, depending on the range of the weapon. This is not to say, of course, that to maximize the chances of sniper surviving to fight again, the longer the distance between him and the victim the better. Conversely, if the sniper is able to conceal himself and engage successfully at close range, then that is also sniping.
Thanks Kaur.
You illustrated one area where I still can't see snipers being replaced by DMs. I think the issue is in Ken’s last part of his definition: "who is part of the fire support effort".
For as far as the snipers are indeed an integral part of the overall fire support effort, then I can probably agree that a DM is just as useful, if not more so. The strength of a sniper is in the "individual" aspect of his capabilities, supported by his much advanced field-craft skills as compared to average rifleman. A DM is an average rifleman with exceptional shooting skills (I think).
Now I know what Wilf is going to say here, regarding witchcraft etc, and I don’t disagree for as far as the myth-status and such almost celebrity-level exaggerations. But I still can see a potential use for the combination of these exceptional shooting skills and exceptional field craft skills, resulting in the ‘sniper’.

And here lies of course the attraction/risk of having snipers used for the scouting/recon role, which is probably understandable but not necessarily advisable. Conversely that doesn’t mean that there should be a law against it either, IMO.

I think the same level of justification for specialized scouts as compared to recon by line-platoons was well made here:

Ken’s Post 27 of the current parallel thread.
Quote:
Reconnaissance is a necessary and vital function. It IS everyone's job as Wilf says -- it also requires a few, not many, specialists that can do it stealthily, quickly, thoroughly and tell you accurately what's out there without fighting for it. They need to be a bit better than the average bear.
Bringing that concept back to snipers, I can still see a justification for a number of snipers, probably at battalion level. At lower levels, probably concentrate on DMs.
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Last edited by Kiwigrunt; 08-20-2009 at 09:17 PM.
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