Specialist Killers Give War Their Best Shot

Through the telescopic sight of his M24 rifle, Staff Sergeant Jim Gilliland, the leader of Shadow sniper team, fixed his eye on the Iraqi insurgent.

Specialist Killers Give War Their Best Shot

His quarry, who had just killed an American soldier, stood in the fourth-floor bay window of a hospital in battle-torn Ramadi. He was still clasping a Kalashnikov. Allowing for wind speed and bullet drop, Shadow's commander aimed four metres high.

A single shot hit the Iraqi in the chest and killed him instantly. It had been fired from a range of 1250 metres, well beyond the capacity of the powerful Leupold sight, accurate to 1000 metres. "I believe it is the longest confirmed kill in Iraq with a 7.62 millimetre rifle," said Sergeant Gilliland, 28, who hunted squirrels in Alabama as a boy before progressing to deer — then people.

"He was visible only from the waist up," he said. "It was a one-in-a-million shot. I could probably shoot a whole box of ammunition and never hit him again." The insurgent was one of between 55 and 65 he estimates he has shot dead in less than five months, putting him within striking distance of sniper legends such as Carlos Hathcock, who recorded 93 confirmed kills in Vietnam. One Shadow man, Specialist Aaron Arnold, 22, has chalked up a similar tally.

All told, the 10-strong Shadow sniper team, attached to Task Force 2/69, has killed just under 200 over the same period. It has emerged as the US Army's secret weapon in Ramadi against the threat of the hidden Improvised Explosive Device or roadside bomb, the enemy's deadliest tactic.

Above the spot from which Sergeant Gilliland took his record shot, in a room at the top of a bombed-out observation post code-named Hotel, are daubed the words "Kill like you mean it" on the wall.

With understatement, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Roggeman, the Task Force 2/69 commander, says: "We're the outsiders, the infidels. Every time somebody goes out that main gate he might not come back. It's still a running gun battle." He worries about the burden his snipers have to bear.

"It's a very God-like role," he says. "They have the power of life and death that, if not held in check, can run out of control."

Source: theage.com

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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