On Active Service

A Sniper's Perspective

Through the darkness we move with caution, passing Qalas whose inhabitants are fast asleep, unaware of our presence. Our night vision goggles a green hue, gathering ambient light courtesy of the snipers moon. Foothills beckon us towards the mountain looming above, waiting to accept us with its cold and jagged embrace. We begin the ascent.

Slowly we wind up and up... legs aching, lungs craving for more oxygen as we gain altitude. Our equipment feels heavier with every step that's taken. Eyes scan, ears listen, smells are analysed. We must remain vigilant as the enemy uses these mountains as well. THUD! ... One of the patrol members has taken a fall down the hill side. We can only hope no-one has heard us.

Many hours later we have arrived at our destination. A quick reconnaissance of the area deems it clear. We lay wet shivering from sweat, high up in the mountain as an icy wind cuts to the bone. Our Observation Post is set... a panoramic view awaits us. The sun begins to rise and sheds light upon our target area.

With eyes glued to our optics we begin a methodical scan of the area. Each patrol member responsible for a given arc, searching for any indicators of an enemy presence. The local pattern of life begins. Smoke rises from compounds, herds are led to graze and farmers tend to their crops.

Individuals are scrutinized as to their intentions. Do they have weapons? Bingo! Small groups begin moving to their fighting positions, unearthing caches of weapons along the way. We have counted upwards of thirty-plus insurgents, travelling in groups of five to six, armed with an assortment of weaponry... AK 47, PKM (Kalashnikov machine gun), RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade), bolt-action rifles. They have ammo bearers following behind. Amongst them children are embedded within. A cowardly tactic indeed, but one which the INS (Insurgents) know we would have difficulty in engaging.

Reports are sent to CHQ in detail, chronicling these events ... a commentary of the battlefield as seen through our eyes.

"I39 this is I63Y,ankee, multiple RPG and PKM teams sighted. Request permission to engage key targets, over."

Ranges and angles are calculated. Wind strength and direction is judged. External climatic conditions bring forth the challenge of determining our final firing solutions. Scopes are set, yet we wait, continuously updating all available information needed to release that inevitable shot. Time slows as we wait for the green light to engage. A calm anticipation descends upon us.

"I63Yankee this is I39, green light to engage C2 elements and heavy weapon teams, out."
Each individual conducts final calculations and applies these to their scopes.

"Co-ord shoot, at my command, all call-signs report when ready."

We in turn acknowledge our team leader.
"Ready, Ready... Ready, Ready... Stand-by... Fire."

A loud report echoes throughout the valley as four Sniper Weapon Systems engage simultaneously. Insurgents tumble, scatter and fall into aqueducts. Some emerge clearly wounded. Others call children over using them as human shields to affect their withdrawal to a safer position. Those remaining seek cover and receive unwelcome attention from us as we systematically engage their rear echelon, picking it to pieces.

This scenario is just one of the numerous occasions where snipers have been utilised to accurately target Insurgents beyond the range of the combat team's inherent weapon systems. Not only has our ability to provide precision long range fire and gather information requirements prevented the inevitable collateral damage often associated with warfare conducted within a COIN (Counter Insurgency) orientated environment, but also allowed other friendly elements to shape their course of action and set the conditions in place for them to manoeuvre. This undoubtedly, has prevented the Insurgents from initiating well prepared ambushes. On almost every occasion I63Yankee sniper team has initiated contact with the insurgents within the Tangi Valley. By forcing the Insurgents to adopt another scheme of manoeuvre it is clear that the capability provided by just four Snipers has undoubtedly prevented casualties throughout the combat team time and time again.

Our tour thus far has been, albeit an eye opener at times, a great privilege to serve our nation as a specialist asset within a Combat Team environment where everyone brings a niche capability to the forefront. As a sniper we see things from within our sights with different eyes and from different points of view. To the enemy … so far away. To us … up close and very personal, without remorse. Providing a skill set that is in my mind, without a doubt, the best job on this planet.

© PTE J. P. Rolston, Sniper,

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