I’m a US Army Sniper, Movies Don’t Show the Hardest Part of My Job

SSG Cho told Business Insider that the films focus on the precision of a sniper’s shot, but miss out on some of the more difficult parts of the job.
Staff Sgt. Philippe Cho

  • Staff Sgt. Phillip Cho is a sniper with the Army’s 11th Airborne Division in Alaska.
  • Cho said that while films primarily focus on precision shooting, precision shooting is much more important.
  • Movies often don’t show the true value of the art of terrain and concealment.

This essay as told is based on a conversation with Staff Sgt. Phillip Cho, a U.S. Army sniper with the 11th Airborne Division based in Alaska. It has been edited for length and clarity.

When training snipers, we focus on things like range estimation, target detection, and precision marksmanship, the latter being the aspect most depicted in films Hollywood.

But in reality, the hardest part of being a sniper is combining all of these, because someone who is good at estimating distance may be bad at detecting targets, especially in a heavily wooded area or in an environment urban, for example.

For me the easiest part is probably shooting because I was already a good shooter before becoming a sniper.

And then I realized it was only a small part work. Being a sniper requires a lot of things, from staying hidden from patrols or trained observers, to finding targets and calling for fire, like shooting missions and artillery.

Hide and seek game for adults

Soldiers zero their rifles during the 2022 European Sniper Competition at the Hohenfels training area in Germany, August 4, 2022.
US Army/SPC Christian Carrillo

Something I emphasize a lot is the importance of training. If you train hard enough and can do your job well under pressure in training, you can do it in real life.

Let’s say you calculate the distance to a target during training. You would then be able to do it in the field because you have already shown that you are capable of it on site.

Obviously, there are things you can’t predict in real life, like equipment breakdowns, but ultimately you would probably have encountered the breakdowns or obstacles you might encounter in the field when training.

During the third week of the U.S. Army Sniper School, 35 students participate in the ghillie wash, designed to test the suit’s strength and durability as well as weather resistance.
U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence and Public Affairs

When we train target detection, one of the most important games we play is hiding objects out in the open and having guys find them while sitting in a position. It’s like a game of hide and seek for adults.

I feel like with all the training, you’ll be in the zone when it comes time to do your job, no matter how nervous you are.

But nervousness is also a good thing. One of my first reconnaissance squad leaders told me, “If you do the job long enough and you get comfortable, you should probably stop doing it because that’s how you get people killed. » Complacency is absolutely unacceptable and we must remain vigilant.

I love my .300 Win Mag

SSG Cho said that marksmanship is only one aspect of being a sniper.
Staff Sergeant Phillip Cho

Our section in Alaska currently has a few rifles in its inventory: the M110 chambered in .308, the M2010 in a .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge, the MK22, the brand new one, we only have .308 at the moment, and then the M107. , which is our anti-material rifle.

The MK22 is an amazing firing system and an easy to use weapon, but I personally have never used it in the field.

I will always be an M2010 guy. I love my .300 Win Mag. It’s the ultimate precision rifle, but from what I’ve seen, the MK22 is a great weapon system and something I’ll be more comfortable with.

The sights of the MK-22 sniper rifle provide a view of a target on the firing range at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, Oct. 22, 2023. The MK-22 replaced the M2010 and M107 sniper rifles existing Army assets.
U.S. National Guard photo by Spc. Michael Schwenk

As snipers, we have to carry a ton of extra gear, not just our rifles.

In the summer, our stuff, like our observation and communications equipment, extra batteries, and the weapons and ammunition themselves, weigh about 60 to 80 pounds.

In the winter we need things like our bunny boots, different layers to keep us warm, and various other extreme cold weather gear to add to that. Snipers typically carry between 90 and 120 pounds of extra weight in cold weather.

Disappear into the depths and shadows

Even though the films touch on cover-up, they never really show the true value of what makes it effective.

Camouflage with elements of their environment is what makes things like a Gillie suit effective, and it is what allows a sniper to be invisible in their operational environment even if they are not wearing one .

I’d rather have someone who can hide without me having to guard them than the guy who can call from a perfect distance because we can work on that. It’s mastering the disappearance in depth and the shadows of one’s environment.

And this is something that we must master as a sniper and that sets us apart.

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