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Sharpshooters And Snipers

This action-packed thriller stars Mark Wahlberg as a former Marine Corps sniper who reluctantly leaves his isolated mountain home to help track down an assassin planning to shoot the president from a great distance with a high-powered rifle. Is Wahlberg destined to be a hero or is he merely being set up as the fall-guy in case something goes wrong? Co-stars the M40A3 and Barrett M82 sniper rifles.

The term "Sniper" originated from the British occupation of India in the 1800's. The primary mission of a sniper is to deliver long-range precision fire on key selected targets and targets of opportunity. The secondary mission of a sniper is the collection and reporting of battlefield information. There have been sharpshooters and snipers ever since the advent of firearms.

During the revolutionary war a British sniper, Maj. Patrick Ferguson, was known for "The shot not taken". In 1777, Ferguson went to the colonies to serve in the American War of Independence with his experimental rifle corps. However, after initial success, he was shot through the right elbow joint at the Battle of Brandywine on 11 September 1777 in Pennsylvania. Shortly before, he had had the chance to shoot a prominent American officer, accompanied by another in distinctive hussar dress, but decided not to do so, as the man had his back to Ferguson him and was unaware of his presence. A surgeon told Ferguson in the hospital that some American casualties had said that General Washington had been in the area at the time. Ferguson wrote that, even if the officer were the general, he did not regret his decision. The officer's identity remains uncertain; historians suggest that the aide in hussar dress might indicate the senior officer was Count Casimir Pulaski.

General David Morgan's snipers were known as Morgan's Riflemen. Morgan's rifleman were a group of hand-picked sharpshooters. They were recruited by Daniel Morgan, a Pennsylvania frontiersman and first cousin of Daniel Boone. In June, 1777, Washington had authorized Morgan to raise a special corps of 500 light infantrymen who were chosen for their marksmanship. Given the official name Rangers, they came to be known as Morgan's Riflemen. At the skirmish around Edge Hill, Morgan's riflemen were opposed by British Regulars, Hessians, Queen's Rangers, and a regiment of American Loyalists under Lieutenant Colonel, J.C. Simcoe.

During the Civil War, COL Hiram Berdan was the first to recruit and organize Union sharpshooters. Their key targets were officers, NCOs, Right Guides, Enemy Scouts, Sharpshooters and Spies. Hiram Berdan's dream was to form and lead a brigade of Sharpshooters, expert marksmen with extremely accurate weapons. He recuited officers and enough men who could pass the marksmen test to field a full regiment, the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters, and the eight (instead of ten) company 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters. Berdan served as Colonel of the 1st Regiment, and Henry A.V. Post was Colonel of the 2nd regiment. Berdan eventually gained the rank of Brigadier-General over both regiments.

The 2nd Regiment was part of the Army of the Patomac in the Eastern Theater. Because of the uncertain regimental status of the Sharpshooters and the need to put the marksmen in tactically advantageous positions, they were frequently reassigned. The 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters were "discontinued" (the organization as a whole disbanded, and the soldiers reassigned to other companies and regiments) on February 20, 1865. The 2nd Regiment lost during service: 8 Officers and 117 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 123 Enlisted men lost to disease. Total 250.

During WWI a stealthy riflemen emerged, whose mission was to exact his toll with the well-placed single shot, to gather intelligence and to demoralize the enemy as much as possible. Along with the continuous dread of Army Sniper Assn – WWI sniperdeath-dealing artillery fire and poisonous gas, the specter of the sniper preyed on the infantryman's psyche in the trenches of WWI.

German Sharpshooters dominated the trenches and "No Man's Land" between the lines. The term "Sniper" replaced "Sharpshooter" during this period. The Germans dominated sniper operations during WWII. The German motto, during WWII, for their snipers: "CAMOUFLAGE 10 times-SHOOT ONCE". These snipers were the first to start fielding specialized equipment. Matthias Hetzenauer was credited with 345 KIAs and Sepp Allerberger with 257 KIAs.

The Soviet Union was the first to employ Snipers in two-man teams. Snipers of the Soviet Union played an important role mainly on the Eastern Front of World War II, apart from other preceding and subsequent conflicts. Most Soviet WWII snipers carried a combat load of 120 rifle cartridges in the field. Unlike the militaries of other nations, these snipers could be men or women. In 1943, there were over 2,000 women functioning in this role.

Although the US Army set up an advanced marksmanship course at Camp Perry, Ohio, the Army had no official sniper course during WWII. Between wars, the USMC sustained limited sniper training but not enough to compete with other countries during WWII. With the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean peninsula in 1950, the upper hand was initially with the Communist forces. The Soviet Union and China trained and equipped North Korea's snipers.  Korean snipers used the Moisin Nagant Model 1891/30 rifle. During 1955-1956, the Army Marksmanship Training Unit operated the first US Army Sniper School at Camp Perry, Ohio. Unfortunately a lack of understanding, and appreciation for the effectiveness and potential that snipers could add to the fight, caused sniper training to be abandoned after this short training period.

In Viet Nam, on July 1968, the US Army began centralized training in-country. The 9th Infantry Division established one of the first in-country Sniper Schools. The course, run by Major Willis Powell, lasted 18 days with the failure rate being 50%. In December 1968, a full complement of seventy-two snipers were ready for action. The 6th Bn, 31st INF RGT of the 9th INF DIV, killed thirty-nine VC from 12 April to 9 May 1969, in the Mekong-Delta.

In November 1968, 8 enemy KIA's were recorded by Army Snipers; December 1968, saw 11 kills. During the period Jan 7 to July 24, 1969, Army Snipers accounted for 1245 enemy killed. In the military in Vietnam, it took some 204 hours of special training to produce a sniper. It took less than a second for him to earn his pay. Whether he "pulled down" on a highly decorated NVA officer or some anonymous VC cadre, the American sniper faced unique challenges in Vietnam. He was fighting in unfamiliar jungle terrain, forced to "outguerrilla" the guerrilla enemyâ€"with the element of surprise and a telescope-equipped rifle.

The US Army Sniper School was established in 1987, at the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, GA, and continues to produce top-notch snipers today. It's continuous existence reflects the longest sniper training course in the history of the US Army and is a testament to the high priority sniper training now enjoys among the Army's leadership. Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings, the U.S. military entered into combat operations in Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom. Snipers proved themselves as an invaluable asset due to their ability to engage targets at great distances in a mountainous battlefield.

Soon after O.E.F. and the fall of the Taliban, Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced. Again, Army snipers were in high demand mainly due to their abilities to use precision fire to engage high value targets, to destroy Vehicle and Suicide-borne Improvised Explosive Devices. Snipers also provide over watch with their high powered optics (day/night) and demoralize the enemy forces. Coalition snipers are the most hunted soldiers on today's modern battlefield. Currently Army Snipers are deployed: Kosovo, Bosnia, Egypt, South America, Africa and Korea.

Novels and movies have portrayed snipers as heartless killers, but they were just highly skilled soldiers, trained for a specific job. Battlefield commanders depended on the sniper's mental toughness, knowing that effective sniping could mean the difference between a mission's success or failure.

Of the more interesting facts, concerns the relative efficiency of the sniper vs. the ordinary infantryman. In World War II, U.S. troops expended 25,000 small-arms rounds per enemy killed. With the advent of more automatic weapons, that number doubled to 50,000 rounds per kill in Korea. In Vietnam, since every soldier carried a rifle capable of fully automatic fire, the number swelled to 200,000. By contrast, U.S. snipers averaged one kill for every 1.7 rounds fired. A pilot who shot down enough enemy planes to become an ace would be called a hero by the public, but a sniper who killed five enemy soldiers might be called a murderer.

A sniper team typically consists of a sniper and a spotter. Both members can perform either role and often rotate between the two. The sniper fires the shot while the spotter assists in observation of targets, atmospheric conditions and handles security of their immediate location and communication with other parties, including directing artillery fire and close air support.

The spotter detects, observes, and assigns targets and watches for the results of the shot. Using his spotting scope, he will also read the wind by using physical indicators and the mirage caused by the heat on the ground. Also, in conjunction with the shooter, he will accurately make calculations for distance, angle shooting (slant range), mil dot related calculations, correction for atmospheric conditions and leads for moving targets. It is not unusual for the spotter to be equipped with a notepad and a laptop computer specifically for performing these calculations.

He also provides the team security, therefore he is usually armed with an assault rifle. It is often the case that the sniper rifle is assigned exclusively to a single person, therefore in the case of rotation the spotter carries two weapons. Some military doctrines describe a third member known as the flanker. His task is to have observed areas not visible to the sniper or spotter and assist with the team's rear security.

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