Snipers are masters of disguise who are able to hide in plain sight, provide surveillance, spot enemy positions and, if necessary, eliminate threats.
“No one knows you’re there. I am here. I look at you, I see everything you’re doing, and someone’s about to come and ruin your day, ”First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a native of Texas and a seasoned US Army sniper, said in a recent interview.
“We are capable of harming you in many ways… We are not going to tell you how we got there. But, we are coming for you.
Business Insider asked a handful of Army snipers, snipers who served in multiple combat deployments in multiple countries, how they disappear in all environments. Here is what they had to say.
An Army Green Beret sniper, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), takes aim at a long-range target for a timed shooting event during sniper training at Fort Carson , Colorado, December 12, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Concealment is about putting all you can between yourself and the watchful eyes of the enemy.
“A sniper is not limited to any method,” said Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of service. “We are extremely free. You are only limited by how you limit yourself.
Snipers use a mixture of natural and man-made materials to achieve concealment and camouflage to avoid detection of the enemy, as the sniper must remain invisible to the enemy to gather intelligence or shoot if necessary. The goal is to blend effectively into negative space, the areas that the eye naturally overlooks.
To hide from the gaze of an adversary is to put “everything you can between yourself and everything that might observe you,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, told BI, explaining that it could be natural vegetation, face paintings, fake screens, sniper ghillie suits or skins they build.
A ghillie suit is designed with loose bands designed to resemble natural backgrounds like twigs or long grass, and can make snipers almost visually undetectable. Ghillie suits generally do not protect the wearer from thermal imaging detection, a technology advanced military personnel are likely to use; however, the military is developing an improved ghillie suit which should provide improved protection.
With the tools they bring with them and the materials found in the field, snipers can shatter and warp their outline, making them much more difficult to spot.
Pfc. William Snyder, 1-173rd Infantry, practices sniper camouflage techniques at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 7, 2018.
(Photo by Army Sgt. William Frye)
In many ways, it’s about knowing your surroundings.
“The best tool snipers can use to disguise and hide from the enemy is a solid understanding of their surroundings,” Company Commander Captain Greg Elgort told BI.
Snipers need to know the lay of the land, plan their route, and take advantage of all that nature has to offer.
“I want to watch the pitch. What can I put between myself and the target, ”said Sipes, who runs the marksmanship training company alongside Elgort. It’s not just about the face paint or what I attach to my body, it’s the natural environment around me that I can use to keep them from seeing me.
For example, the winners of the international sniper competition, two non-commissioned officers from the 3rd Army Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, went into hiding with nothing more than a ghillie suit balaclava. and various materials they found in the field.
In particular, they focused on hiding their face.
“Just by being able to disfigure and break the outline of their face – you know, a human face stands out very clearly in a wooded area – by hiding the outline of their face, they were able to win,” Elgort explained. “It’s really about understanding that, knowing what you’re presenting and adjusting accordingly. “
Sgt. Chayne Walsh, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to perform her concealment exercise during sniper training at Fort Benning.
(Patrick A. Albright / MCoE PAO Photographer)
There are a lot of little things that, if overlooked, could be fatal.
Snipers have to deal with their tracks, scent, shadow, glare and countless other things to stay hidden from enemies. “There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” Sipes explained.
Here are some of the many things snipers need to think about.
“If you are facing east in the morning, the sun is going to come towards you, so you have to do something with your scope to avoid the glare,” Elgort told BI. To combat this problem, snipers build cat eyes.
“We use natural vegetation, we use envelopes, netting, whatever to block the optics of all sighting but allow us to see through,” Sipes said, noting that other considerations include s. it looms or not against something else. A shadow could reveal its position, exposing it to the enemy.
As for perfumes, he said snipers avoid scented soaps, tobacco, any type of cologne, deodorants, etc.
In colder climates, a sniper may eat snow to hide their breath, but it only works for a short time. “You will have to continually have to eat snow and then you will have to pee,” Smith said, raising another potential consideration.
Snipers should also think about bodily excretions. Sometimes when nature calls out, a sniper uses bags with sponges to soak up his things. They can also bury it in the earth. Other times, they just have to hold it.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Stewart, a sniper assigned to NATO Battle Group Poland, improves his fighting stance during contact reaction exercises in the Bemowo Piskie training area, Poland, Nov. 8, 2018.
(Photo by US Army Staff Sgt. Sarah Kirby)
Some environments are easier than others.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Jones, another sniper instructor, identified two environments that were decidedly difficult to conceal: fresh snow and urban environments.
“You can disappear in the snow. It takes a little more thought. It’s a little harder to play with the mix, ”he told BI.“ And, in the urban environment, there are so many eyes on you right from the start that it’s quite difficult. for you to enter your setup without someone knowing you’re already there. “
Places like cities and suburbs are also the most difficult areas to photograph.
“I can say that the most difficult place to photograph is in an urban environment,” Sipes said, drawing attention to some of the angles and structures obstructing visibility, among other issues.
“Targets are generally on the move. They are surrounded by civilians. They use the patterns of life on the ground to hide. And they’re never in the same place, ”he added.
When it comes to the easiest environments to integrate, this is definitely your standard forest or jungle, Jones explained.
Hidden under twigs and weeds, a sniper’s belly is flat on the ground, dirt and grime on his face. All that can be seen in the cheat beams is a pair of steady and intense eyes.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt Becky Vanshur)
One of the biggest dangers is that new technologies make it harder to hide snipers.
The United States is once again in a period of rivalry with other military powers, which means it must learn to counter more advanced threats from adversaries like China and Russia.
“Defeating a heat signature is probably the most difficult thing a sniper has to do, especially with emerging technologies from our close enemies,” Smith told BI. Snipers can hide in the visible spectrum, but battling high-end sensors is a challenge.
American rivals are starting to “infiltrate the thermal arena, and that in itself is dangerous for a sniper, because then you can’t hide from it,” Smith said. Thermal imagers can easily detect the heat of a human body relative to the ambient temperature of the surrounding environment.
Smith called it a “great challenge” that the military “is also working to defeat him.”
Sometimes that means going back to basics. Snipers often use laser rangefinders to get a more accurate reading on a target, but this is not always an option.
“When we go against a threat close to peers or an adversary who can identify it, we must only rely on the reticle which is within our scope,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Rance, a sergeant with the Colorado Sniper Instructor Team, explained.
There are also new camouflage systems, such as Fibrotex’s ultralight camouflage netting system, capable of providing more persistent infrared, thermal and counter-radar performance, which are being developed to aid shooters in the field. elite army, as well as other soldiers, to hide from the most advanced threats.
War is ever-changing, which means America’s snipers must be prepared for anything.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.