Sniper School Exclusive: Behind The Scope With An Instructor

Forces New spoke to a sniper instructor with 15 years of experience, who knows how to perform when you "can't miss".

The work of the sniper, though often unseen, can never be overlooked.

Highly trained and highly valued by their teammates, members of this unique force are able to go undetected for long periods - taking up positions to gather intelligence, watch over friendly forces and, if required, deliver lethal force.

As part of the Sniper School series, Forces News has met an instructor with 15 years of experience.

In a candid interview, we found out what life is really like to operate in the shadows and what it feels like when you cannot afford to miss.

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Forces News has spent time with trainee sniper instructors at the Specialist Weapons School in Warminster.

Asked about the pressure that comes with the job, the instructor described the tension as "massive":

"It doesn't matter what distance... even those short-range shots, especially in Afghanistan where there's a lot of close country."

While many associate the role with extreme feats of accuracy, snipers are often tasked with operating in urban environments.

"You might not think of it as sniping, some of those shots are only 200 metres.

"It's just, 'I can't miss this, I need to get this'. The people we tend to target are high-value".

As well as being excited for his first operational deployment, the instructor had felt the "daunting" responsibility shared by everyone in the "brotherhood" of snipers tasked with supporting other troops.

Having undergone hours of surveillance work, he still remembers his first shot vividly: "It was in Iraq... we were on a roof, we'd support the strike teams going in.

"It was just the job, they're just targets at the end of the day.

"To be honest, if you said it didn't bother you, you'd be lying - it did a little bit.

"It was just something you've got to do."

Remaining unseen in hostile environments is a crucial part of the skillset that keeps highly-trained snipers alive. Part of the instructor training features a 'hide-and-seek'-style drill.

Asked whether flashbacks or a sense of regret have followed a career on the frontline as a sniper, the instructor answered: "Not a day goes by where you don't think about some element of tour - whether that be Afghan, Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, Northern Ireland.

"If you didn't think about it all the time, it'd be a bit weird."

Having been scared "quite a few times" when quiet but tense situations suddenly "kick-off", he still "wouldn't change anything" about his career.

"None of my snipers got killed or anything, I've had a few injured," he said, thinking back.

Speaking of a special bond shared between small groups within the sniper community, he said: "These are the guys that you'll hang around with at the weekends... you'll know their family, their kids, their wives.

"They are highly motivated and they want to be there."