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47th Infantry Division Sniper School 1988

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Jeff White, Jan 1, 2003.

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  1. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    I mentioned that I had attended this course in another thread. 4V50Gary suggested that I contact the Chandlers regarding my experiences. I don't feel that my limited experience would contribute much to their excellent series of books on sniping, but I will share my thoughts with everyone here who is interested.

    The Army had mothballed their sniper programs after Vietnam. They didn't start talking about them again until the mid 1980s as they were developing the doctrine and capabilities of the new Light Infantry Divisions. There were still sniper rifles in storage all over the Army. Mostly M1Ds left over from Korea, but there were some M21s still around. The actual sniper school at Ft Benning hadn't opened yet and there were a few unit schools out there and some units sent soldiers to the USMC Scout/Sniper course. Work was being done on developing the M24 Sniper Weapon System to arm the snipers in the new light divisions.

    Two Majors in the 47th Infantry Division (a National Guard Division composed of soldiers from Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois and some ADA from New Mexico) approached the Adjutant General of Minnesota and the CG of the 47th ID with an idea to create a sniper school for soldiers of the division. These two officers were MAJ Gary C. Schraml and MAJ John L. Plaster (yes the same John Plaster who later wrote The Ultimate Sniper). They pulled resources from all over the Army. Sniper rifles, spotting scopes, night vision devices, match ammunition, blank ammunition, everything they needed to run a sniper school. Many of the rifles, M1Ds and M21s had been in storage and had to be gone over by good competent armorers before they were ready for the course. The Adjutant General of Minnesota provided the excellent range facilities at Camp Ripley along with training areas, barracks and enough support staff so that the students could concentrate on learning to be snipers.

    Candidates were selected from Infantry and Military Police units within the division. You had to be within the grades of E4-E7 and must have already qualified as an Expert with the M16A1. In keeping with the Guard's dual role of state and federal support, police officers from St. Paul PD CERT Team and the Minneapolis Airport Police Tactical Unit also attended the course with us.

    We reported in on a Sunday afternoon and were in processed. Part of the equipment we were issued upon inprocessing was one live round of ammunition for our weapon. This was to be our graduation round. The writers of the program of instruction had come up with a novel way to impart the stress of having to make one cold shot count. We were to carry this round in our right BDU trouser pocket throughout the course. When asked by any of the staff to "Show me your round?!" we were to pull the round from our pocket, hold it above our head and shout the school motto, ONE SHOT, ONE KILL! During the final qualification shoot, we would be told by an instructor "Show me your round!" at which point he would say "load it". We then would load our round, and if we missed that shot, no diploma. Anyone who has been in the Army knows what a chance they took by doing this, we carried the round everywhere for the duration of the course, on and off duty. If there had been a negligent discharge, I'm sure more then one career would have ended on the spot.

    Most of us were issued an M1D. That was the most plentiful sniper rifle in Army inventories at that time. The few M21s they managed to find went to the left handed shooters, because due to the offset scope mount it is impossible to shoot the M1D left handed. The first day started in the classroom with mechanical training on these weapons. Then it was off to the range to zero. Zeroing took much longer then programmed because of difficulites with the Korean War vintage M84 telescopes. We were unable to zero many of them and it was fortunate that they had managed to secure more weapons then they needed for the course. The telescope on the first one I had was shooting two target frames to the left at 300 meters, this was with the windage adjusted all the way right. The weapon was exchanged for another that I was able to zero.

    The days were full and the time was about equally divided between the range and fieldcraft. Tactics, camouflage, movement, stalking were all covered well. There was an Olympic shooter on the marksmanship staff. We didn't fire a set number of rounds during our practice time on the range, there was unlimited ammuntion. The only disadvantage was that they had no .30 match ammo loaded in enbloc clips. Those of us with M1Ds single loaded every round we fired.

    Days were long, going from breakfast before sunup to about 9 pm or later (if we were night firing) every night. We fired the standard telescopes at night under flare illumination and fired M16A1s with PVS-4s during the night exercises.

    Many innovative ways to employ precision rifle fire were taught. One of the neat tricks they taught was the sniper initiated mechanical ambush. This was a standard mechanical ambush with the M18A1 Claymore mines, but instead of using a tripwire with a clothes pin to complete the firing circuit, you used two pieces of metal window screen in a frame about 1/4 inch apart. When the enemy patrol came into the kill zone, you fired into the window screen. The bullet completed the circuit and fired off the mechanical ambush as it penetrated through the screen.

    We learned to use a count to use multiple snipers to take down more then one target simultaniously.

    Now there is an official DA approved Sniper School at Ft Benning GA. There is the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course at Ft Bragg NC. Before these schools existed, there were just unit schools and not many of them. It looks like sniper training has finally won a permanent place in US Army Doctrine.

    Jeff

    Edited to correct poor typing...
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2003
  2. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you Jeff

    For taking the time to share your experience with us. Always wanted to go to sniper school and even signed up for the FBI Sniper School and got accepted. Work pulled the plug on my buddy and me. :( We learned years later that they were concerned about workman's comp in case we got injured. Administrators. :rolleyes:

    I'm surprised to learn that as late as '88 we still have M1-Ds in our inventory. It was never really a satisfactory weapon and to have it around so late after Viet Nam is shocking.

    How long was your course? Two weeks? Longer?

    How was range estimation taught? Was it as described in Plaster's book or simplier? I'm curious because I've read of the methods used to train the Confederates during the Civil War.

    Can you share more about the graduation shoot with that one bullet? What did it entailed? Shooting from a unknown distance? A stalk? Details!

    Following graduation, did they issue you a better rifle or were you left using the M1-D?

    Thanks.
     
  3. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Gary,
    Range estimation was right out of FM 21-75, the football field method, comparing against an object of known size, terrain/map association. The guys who had M21s had the ART series scopes and they just dialed theirs in. Those of us with M1Ds were told to use holdover rather then clicking in the elevation because there was no guarantee in how far the clicks on the M84 would move the impact of the bullet. They were really in bad shape. Led to interesting days on the range. I actually got bored one afternoon shooting 600 meter head shots. There was nearly zero wind and I knew exactly where to hold over on the target frame to drop them in. Now if we could just get the enemy to walk around with target frames strapped to their back, I'd have been unstoppable! :cool:

    The course was one very long week. It was that way due to funding, not the about of material they had to present.

    Another experiment they tried that didn't work out well was adapting the M16 clothes pin type bipod to both rifles. We all carried little field expediant shooting tripods we made from branches and 550 cord, plus empty sandbags to fill at our position. THE ONLY TIME A SNIPER EVER SHOOTS FROM AN UNSUPPORTED POSITION IS IN SELF DEFENSE was another school motto.

    The graduation shoot was a qualification course fired on the KD range. I'll have to dig through my stuff to find the course of fire. I was lucky, my graduation round was fired at 200 meters :) a very easy shot. There was also a written fieldcraft test.

    Stalks were done through wooded areas and across open fields. No shooting real bullets at steel targets next to the cadre though...only in the movies for that one, we fired blanks on the stalks.

    They made a very comprehensive pocket sized manual for us. I saw some of the things that are in our manual in MAJ Plaster's book.

    We kept the M1Ds in the units until about 1993 when we recieved M24s. I really think that the M1Ds were pretty good rifles and would have been more then adequate if they had been equipped with a good modern telescope.

    I just read where the Bde of the 82d Airborne that deployed to A'Stan last received 9 Barrett .50s to augment their M24s.

    Too bad you missed your chance to go to the FBI Sniper school. I understand that MAJ Plaster had some input into their program too. I found him to be an excellent instructor. He never mentioned his expolits with SOG. IIRC, he didn't even wear the SF patch on his right shoulder, but one from a different unit he'd served with. He bears a striking physical resemblance to G Gordon Liddy.

    Jeff
     
  4. beemerb

    beemerb Member

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    I am very glad that they changed there mind about sniping.I was in a guard unit in MN in the mid 70's.(needed the money and had all my required tiem in regular army).We had a major one weekend who was brought in to teach us soviet military equipment and tactics.When he was finished there was a question answer time set aside.I asked why the American military didn't have sniper schools and snipers in units.Got quite a talk about useless snipers and no need for
    them and so on.I started to ask a question on the effect of sniping on moral in enemy units and was told
    shutup and sit down.That was the thinking of officers at that time in guard units in MN.
    I left the unit not long after that.Told the first sargent that I wouln't want to follow officers like that if something happened and we where called up.
    Bob
     
  5. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks Jeff!

    Funny you should mention about the attitude of the officer beemerb. "Not needed" and "useless" sounds very much like the British back in the 1700s. During the siege of Charleston, the German jaegers kept our cannoneers from their guns. Our cannoneers didn't think those jaegers were useless. It didn't help when Lincoln surrendered to Clinton under humiliating terms (no honors of war). George Rogers Clark's men did the same thing at Fort Sackville (modern day Vincennes). The British defenders couldn't reload their cannon from fear of Clark's unneeded riflemen. Almost a century later in 1862, the same thing happened at Yorktown. Johnny had only four companies of soldiers armed with rifled muskets. In addition to numerous regiments armed with rifled muskets, Billy also had four companies armed with telescope rifles. Guess who had the upper hand? Again those useless and unneeded riflemen kept Johnny from manning his cannons. Darn them. They don't fight fair. And those Boers. Remember Denny Reitz's book, Kommando? He shot about 17 rounds into a loophole of a blockhouse. Later on he met an officer who told him that some Boer killed over a dozen soldiers attempting to shoot out of that very loophole. All ancient history to the MN officer, but then again, who reads all that old stuff?

    BTW Jeff, mind if I ask some more questions later?
     
  6. 444

    444 Member

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    Wow, the is incredible that they were still using M1s in 1988. When I was in the guard, they had a few of us "qualify" with the sniper rifles they had in the arms room. There was no class of any kind, and we didn't zero the weapons. We were told that they were already zeroed and don't mess with anything. We just went to the range to quality with our M16s and they asked who would like to qualify with a sniper rifle. Needless to say, I was the first in line. I would guess that this was in about 1986. The rifle was an M14 with a ranging scope, I think they called it an XM21 but I am not sure at this point. The range was a pop up target range at Nellis AFB that went out to either 800 meters or 1000 meters, again, I don't remember now. We fired from prone with sandbags although it might have been out of a foxhole with sandbags. I was amazed at how easily I was able to hit the targets out at the most extreme range. I also remember that we didn't clean the rifles. Our 1st sergent told us that we wern't to monkey with them at all, we shot them, they kept a log of the rounds fired, and at some point they were sent to an armor for service including cleaning. There was no score to qualify. We just fired the rifles and that was it.

    I would love to have access to a range like that with my own guns, now. I got thrown off the line that day as I remember. They gave us all like six 30 round mags for the M16, and the targets starting popping up at all ranges, one at a time. The idea was supposed to be like a human wave attack, or our position was being overrun. My target would pop up, I would shoot it and then sit there for a few minutes waiting on the next target. The guy to my left couldn't shoot worth crap and seldom hit his target. So, I started shooting my target and his target. I then took it to the next level and tried to anticipate when he was going to shoot and then shoot his target just before he could. I got several warnings from the tower to knock it off, but I pretended like I was too stupid to understand what we were doing. After like the third time they 86ed me.
     
  7. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    beemerb,

    That was pretty much the attitude of the entire US Army in the mid 70s. Vietnam had ended and GEN Dupay was trying to stear the doctrine away from counter-insurgency towards fighting the Soviet Union in Europe. He developed a doctrine called Active Defense. Sniping was considered a counter insurgency tactic and not really useful to stopping T62s in the Fulda Gap. There was really not much emphisis put on sniping until they foprmed the light divisions, and some people started thinking about what a combat multipier snipers are. The light divisions needed all the combat multipliers they could get having little in the way of indirect fire or transportation support.

    Our army has pretty much done this after every war though. Find a copy of Peter Senich's The Complete Book of U.S. Sniping it's pretty hardware oriented, but has a pretty good rundown on the history of snipers in the US military.

    Gary, ask anything you want, this post has got me ready to dig out the manual they made for us.

    Jeff
     
  8. BigG

    BigG Member

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    Funny, but I've just been reading a book called "With British Snipers to the Reich" about a WWII officer who attended sniper school right behind the front lines. Writing is reminiscent of Col. Charles Askins, quite savory imho. Thanks, Jeff.
     
  9. Soap

    Soap Member

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    Thanks for the story! I had no idea that the U.S. didn't have a sniper school until the mid 80's...and that they were so ill equipped!
     
  10. KMKeller

    KMKeller Member

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    I have to say that this is one of the best reads in quite a while! Thanks guys.:D
     
  11. thumbtack

    thumbtack Member

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    Thanks for sharing that with us. That was very interresting.
     
  12. Gunner45

    Gunner45 Member

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    Thanks guys that was a good read. BigG do you have the authors name for that book?

    Gunner45
     
  13. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Capt. Peter Shore wrote With British Snipers to the Reich. BTW, don't believe the tribute he wrote to the King's Royal Rifle Corps. It's fiction.
     
  14. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Jeff, what was the washout rate at your school? Also curious about the screening. You mentioned that everyone was E-4 to E-7 and from the MPs and Infantry, but was there any psychological screening to test aptitude?

    Also curious as to your M1D. Did it have a flash suppressor and if so, did you find that it threw your bullets. I'm thinking that it was a relatively loose device and if attached to the gun, gave varying harmonics; none of which are good for consistent shooting.

    Following graduation, were you guys kept together as a platoon or returned to your parent unit? If the latter, did your duties vary and were you afforded regular practice with your rifle?

    Can you elaborate on what was in your pocket manual that was carried over into Plaster's book? I'm curious as to what the source material for the manual and whether it was drawn from British manuals or old lesson plans from the Vietnam Era.
     
  15. Ed

    Ed Member

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    I tried to go to Sniper school in 1998 but was told by the Batallion XO that since I was an Officer I couldn't. He said if I was enlisted he might concider it. So I offered and he kicked me out of his office. I thought that FO's for an Infantry unit could use the training. Oh well....
     
  16. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Gary,

    About 60% graduated. You had to pass the hands on marksmanship tests and a written fieldcraft test.

    There was no psychological screening. It was all volunteer. I know that at one point the Army required completion of the MMPI and approval from whoever anaylized it to get into the sniper school at Ft Benning.

    Everyone was returned to their units. Most units sent NCOs, there were even a couple of company grade officers IIRC. The idea was to produce people who could help with unit sniper programs at home station.

    We had no flash hiders on the M1Ds. I saw a couple in the arms room, but no one shot with them.

    I will try to dig out the manual they gave us this week and post a comparison. It was quite a handy little book.

    And one other thing...they had designed a patch for us to wear on our BDUs, but they couldn't get authorization for wear. MAJ Schraml, wanted all the graduates to have something besides a piece of paper to mark their accomplishment with. So he went home and loaded .30 dummy rounds on his press, drilled them out at the bottom to accept a wire for attaching keys, and had "ONE SHOT, ONE KILL" engraved on the case. Everyone who graduated got one with his diploma. Mine has never had keys attached to it though.

    Jeff
     
  17. ojibweindian

    ojibweindian Member

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    Great read!

    My father, while in the 'Corps during the 60's was slated to attend a hastily put together sniper school while in Viet Nam. Something happened, he didn't say what, and was unable to go. He's good with a rifle, as was his mother.
     
  18. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Here's one for you Ojibweindian

    At Cold Harbor, one Indian from the First Michigan Sharpshooters, Co. K, was sent to General Wilcox's H.Q. to dispatch a rebel sharpshooter who had made things uncomfortable for them. Old "One Eye" had use of only his left eye and would normally be disqualfied from serving as a soldier. This did not stop him from enlisting and furthermore, he was one of the best shots in the regiment.

    "One Eye arrived at General Wilcox's headquarter and asking no questions and speaking to no one, sat down and observed. After half an hour, he got up, and walked away, his silence never broken. Later in the afternoon, pickets reported seeing a rebel sharpshooter in a tree being hit and falling through the branches onto the ground. Later in the evening, One Eye returned to his camp and laconically reported to his commanding officer, 'Me go im.'"

    Taken from Herek's These Men have Seen Hard Service

    Elsewhere in the book it is learned that the Indians of Co. K were not only the best shots in the regiment, but that they also taught the rest of the regiment how to camouflage themselves (applied mud and allowed it to dry or rolled in dry dirt until the blue uniform blended with the ground).
     
  19. Hk Paul

    Hk Paul Member

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    Thank you

    For sharing that with us, it was a good read. Its good to hear positive things about the ARMY.
     
  20. ajacobs

    ajacobs Member

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    I also attended army sniper school in the Harmony church section of Ft benning Ga. I was set to deploy for Korea in several months time and my unit was to disband. I spent the last 5 months attending various schools, which was a dream come true for me.

    School was also 2 weeks long (might have been 12 days) Like most millitary schools of the practical or hands on nature it is only designed to lay a foundation then idealy you would serve in that duty position and learn from you fellow, and more exprerienced brethern.
     
  21. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Sniper confessional

    ajacobs: well, don't hold out on us then. Share your experience. Relieve yourself of your burden. Welcome to Firearms Confessional. ;)
     
  22. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    Gary,
    Did Preacherman ordain you to hear our confessions? I hope that my pennance isn't too bad....:D

    4V50Gary, father confessor to wayward snipers...:cool:

    Jeff
     
  23. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

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    (Assumes ordaining position, dons vestments, reaches for Barrett .50 instead of shepherd's crook...)

    "I hereby ordain 4v50 Gary as Shepherd of Snipers, Pontiff of Point-Shooters, Father of Firing-Ranges, Pastor of Pepper-Poppers, Zen-Guru of Zeroing, Talisman of Telescopic Sights, Deacon of Dud Rounds, Bishop of Buttstocks, Archbishop of Aimpoints and Cardinal of Crosshairs. So mote it be!"

    Now where's that Papal smilie...??? :neener:
     
  24. ajacobs

    ajacobs Member

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    My exp. was very similar to Mr. White's only with more modern equiptment. We had the opertunity to shoot both the m21 and m 24 and also shot with night vision.

    We also had a final stalk and shoot. A fair percentage passed (70% or so) Most people who No-goed failed the range estimation.

    I only consider myself someone who went to the school, not a Sniper. I think it takes years of shaping your skills in that duty position, learning from your mistakes in a trainging enviroment etc to really be a sniper.
     
  25. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Now that I'm ordained (thanks Preacherman)...

    ajacobs, that won't buy you a beer here. Now fess up son and relieve yourself. :)

    Tell us about the selection process you underwent. Did you volunteer or were you chosen by your Sgt., Capt. or what? Screening details. MMI & talk with the good Dr.? Previous experience with firearms (hunter, target shooter, plinker)?

    Tell us about your impressions about the school at Ft. Bennings, GA. What were the facilities like? Shoestring budget? Instructor qualifications? Who was there? Tell us about your sniper platoon and your buddies there.

    You shot both the M21 & M24. What was your preference and why? What did most folks prefer? Describe your NVD experience.

    These may seem trivial, but a lot of "common" knowledge things, unless recorded or noted, are forgotten. The Chandler Bros. did this well with the Marine Snipers. But the "insider tidbits" from the Army is much more limited in scope.
     
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