Saturday, August 15, 2009
Reach out and touch somebody...
Y’know…war is a nasty business. It’s not always the clean, antiseptic, push-button, smart-bomb, impersonal, ready-for-the-evening-news soundbytes you see on the telly as you nibble your din-din.
Combat for the most part is messy, smelly, loud, and most unpleasant. Many times it can happen at ranges of less than 10 feet, where you can smell your enemy and see his face as the life leaves his eyes. It’s the type of thing that stays with you years after you’ve experienced it. Personally, I have never experienced it, though I trained for it. I’m honestly not sure how I would have handled it, but I’m pretty sure that if it had come to it, I would have acquitted myself in the fine tradition of American soldiering and those who came before me. Thankfully, I’ll never know. Not unless some dumb cretin decides to break into my house because I exercise my Second Amendment rights and will defend me and mine with 230 grains of Lanoke, Arkansas’ finest full metal jacket…
(Actually, I currently have two boxes of ammo for my .45; a box of Winchester 185-grain and a box of 230-grain from Remington’s Union Metallic Cartridge Company.)
I have a deep and profound respect for the solemn professionals who actually turn the nasty business of killing into something that is part science and part magic. I’m talking about snipers. With today’s technology, you can reach out and touch someone from a mile away, yet the optics bring it right up close and personal. Today’s snipers move silently and unseen to their positions, painstakingly, sometimes taking hours. They may stay completely still in the same spot for hours or days, in all sorta of weather and conditions, before finally engaging their target. It takes a very special type of soldier who can not only perform the mission but can do it with a professional detachment that allows you to do it without losing your humanity.
Recently, snipers from a US Navy SEAL unit took down the Somali pirates who were holding the captain of the Maersk Alabama hostage. People, they whacked those pirates in the dark, on a moving boat, from a moving boat. That’s pretty amazing. During the battle for Mogadishu made famous by the film Black Hawk Down, Delta Force snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shugart held off a huge enemy force and kept pilot Mark Durant alive before being mortally wounded. Immediately after the battle, the Somalis counted 24 of their own men dead with many more severely wounded who may have died later of their wounds. Both Gordon and Shugart were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Looking at an Afghani from a Marine sniper's view
Coalition snipers have been utilized to great success in both Iraq and in Afghanistan, and that brings me to the point of my babbling…
A British sniper this week killed a Taliban leader with the longest-ever fatal bullet shot in Afghanistan by a British sniper, from nearly two kilometers (1.15 miles) away.
Corporal Christopher Reynolds and his spotter, Lance Corporal David Hatton, had been camped on the roof of a shop for three days as he waited for the perfect conditions to shoot the terrorist commander. The incident happened last week during heavy fighting in the town of Babaji in Helmand Province. The warlord, known as 'Mula', is thought to be responsible for coordinating several attacks against British and American troops since the outbreak of war in 2001.
In the ensuing battle, an Afghan sniper was taken out by one of CPL Reynolds' comrades who fired a state-of-the-art Javelin missile launcher. Overkill maybe, but it sends a helluva message.
CPL Reynolds is a member of the Third Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots, The Black Watch) who has already killed 32 rebel fighters, and has been in Afghanistan since March. For those of you unfamiliar, the Black Watch is one of the most famous units in the UK. To me there’s something magical about a unit that used to wear their kilts into battle. That’s truly bad-ass.
CPL Chris Reynolds of 3 Scots in his dress uniform. Beware of men in kilts.
Corporal Rob Furlong of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry holds the record for the longest confirmed sniper kill in combat, at 2430 meters (2657 yards, or 1.51 miles) with a .50 caliber Macmillan Brothers Tac-50 rifle. Established in 2005, the shot exceeds that of Sergeant Brian Kremer of the US Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion in 2004 in Iraq (2300 meters). It also exceeds, by 144 meters (157 yd or 472 ft), that of USMC sniping legend Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock's 1967 record of 2286 metres (2500 yards, or 1.42 miles) and Master Corporal Arron Perry's record of 2,310 m (2,526 yd / 1.435 mi) set just before Furlong's record. Incidentally, Perry was in the same 5-man sniper team as Furlong.
U.S. Army 1LT Patrick Higgins (foreground) of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment surveys a village as SPC Aaron Trapley and SGT Gary Fordyce provide sniper overwatch and SGT Nicholas Gauthier provides security during a foot patrol near Forward Operating Base Mizan, Afghanistan, on Feb. 23, 2009.
DoD photo by SGT Christopher S. Barnhart, U.S. Army.