A 26 Hour Training Day, Part 1: The Warm Up

We started day 3 at 0900 at the stalking lane. I was looking forward to correct the errors that I had made during the previous stalk on day 1. This time the snipers operated in pairs, and I was paired up with Matt. Because Matt was not really there as a student, he had not participated in the previous stalk, but did walk around with one of the instructors as he walked the stalking lanes around us. I think this probably gave him a good perspective of how it is supposed to work.

For this stalk I borrowed Russ’ ghillie instead of trying to make the burgandy one fit. Matt helped me attach some local vegetation to make the suit work better. He just used a set of Multicam BDUs. We were probably 400-500 yards north of the target location. No matter how good the suit is, it isn’t magic, but for me this was about learning about camouflage.

The idea of this stalk was to get within 100 yards or so, close enough to make a positive ID and a “shot” (yelling bang). The stalking lane was just east of and adjacent to the “road” in. Our plan was to take a route approximately 100 yards further east of the straight line of sight down the stalking lane to the target, then work back in towards the target at a southwest angle.

A compass and paying better attention to the reference markers (just as power lines paralleling the road would have helped. We mistook a truck parked near the road for the target truck, which put our path almost straight down the stalking lane instead of skirting the edge of it. With the instructors using spotting scopes and binos, we were not using the terrain as advantageously as we could have been.

A second mistake was that we wasted time early on by going overboard on stealthy movement techniques, when distance and obstacles should have done some of that for us. By the time we were getting near the target we were pretty short on time.

The last mistake was lack of confidence in seeing the shot. I could see Russ pretty clearly, although not by facial recognition. Part of the problem there was that I had put pantyhose over my objective as a field expedient anti-reflective device and it interfered with my image clarity. I could see that it was him by his outline, and that he was at the rear of his truck glassing with binos. I would have had a clear shot, but we had been warned that we would need to get close enough to recognize a fairly small object. I insisted that we get closer. Matt took my word for it. About 10 yards closer and we were spotted, first by his boonie, and then by me being in the sun. We learned that the small object would have been a Copenhagen can, which would have been easy to spot. It was still a good learning experience. The temperature at that time was in the 70’s and I was completely soaked in sweat, as if I had a barrel of warm sea water dumped on me.

The previous day’s stalk had claimed my rifle scope’s ocular lens cover and one of my binocular (my wife’s binoculars) objective covers. This days stalk broke my rifle’s objective lens cover. This stuff will shakedown gear like nothing I’ve seen before.

Following the stalking exercise we were given a surveillance mission. I will continue that in the next installment (3500 words is just too much. It was way too long a day to fit into one article without re-creating the exhaustion for you).

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