September 6, 2010 by David Gillaspie
(Wearing my Cultural Commentator Suit)
War does one thing well, it gives a new vocabulary for death. I learned some of it from a visitor to DG’s B&B.
Marshall Dillion reserved three nights. On the second night I ran into him outisde. He was out for a walk.
“You’ve caught the best weather of the year,” I said. “Been too hot or too wet. Not like this.”
The weather? It’s a start.
He was a young man, built thick, maybe six feet tall. “After this I’m back in North Carolina for a while.”
“Just had a hurricane there.”
“I guess. My folks are out here. I’m back there to finish a tour.”
“Not exactly. I’m consulting with other agencies at this time from Ft. Bragg.”
I sweep leaves off the sidewalk. “Sure. I had you pegged as a government lawyer. The guy doing the law for the law has a good ring.”
He stretches his calves on the curb. “You’ve got the pegging part right. I’m a sniper.”
“A lifer?” I asked. I heard what he said. Carlos Hathcock and Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger (Bob the Nailer) trilogy of mystery-thriller novels came to mind.
“A sniper. I’m a sniper.”
Maybe it’s wrong, but I wanted to ask him for his autograph.
“Sniper? Like a shooter?”
“Just like that.”
He tells me the training and equipment he used. I didn’t ask if he’d killed anybody. He wasn’t saying if he did. What he did say is how heavy everything he carries up the hills.
“How can anyone expect you to carry that?” I say.
“You see these legs? You don’t get legs like that from working at a desk. I can bench press 420 pounds. It’s heavy and it’s hot. Not everyone can do it.”
He ran down the sort of guns he’s shot, the ones he likes, the ones he doesn’t. He likes the M-14. He likes the .308 bullet.
Today’s snipers move into the field in teams of six. Four of them watch the perimeter, two set up a shot. The shooter and the spotter are both snipers. The spotter is usually the better sniper, the one with more field experience. He sets up for distance, wind, humidity, temperature.
He dials it in.
“Everyone’s usually pretty even in shooting? Everyone’s a good shot?” I ask.
“We’ve all gone through sniper school. We’re all snipers. We rotate the team jobs. You went to bootcamp, right? For me it was bootcamp, infantry, Ranger School, then Sniper School. Sniper School was hardest.”
“You’ve got guns?”
“I’ll say. I’ve got an arsenal. When the zombies attack, my place is where to be. I’ve got the perfect approach and the most ammo of anyone ar0und.”
“In North Carolina.”
“That’s right. My place has a perfect funnel of death.”
“We’ve had some shootings here.”
“I’ve heard. It’s a horrible thing.”
“You might know better than anyone.”
“I do. No mights about it.”
“What do you do with this sort of killing?” I asked.
“Believe it or not, the gun is the last thing. You want my take? My point of view? Some people shouldn’t have guns. The training and handling we had to do to get close to gun feels about right, but anyone else can go to the store and pick one up? It’s all about the training. We had a guy in the cycle, a black guy from South Central, a gangbanger. We got together in different places later. This guy turned out better than most.”
“Better than you?”
“Close. I’ve got a brain to finger connection you can’t teach. We get together with other guys from our cycle and we ask the guy from LA to hold his pistol sideways like the old days. The guy is a former street thug, now he’s a sniper. He wouldn’t lay his piece over. We said we knew that’s how he used to do it. Not anymore. He wouldn’t do it. That’s the sort of training that sinks a hook in a man.”
With the leaves pushed onto my neighbor’s yard I said goodnight. “Let me know if something’s not working right here. Leave me a note if you have an idea of my B&B. I like to keep up.”
My sniper starts doing a series of small jumps up on the curb. “Do you have any guns in the B&B?”
“I’ve got a couple of broken down .30-.40 Krags from the Spanish-American War.”
“There you go. First cartridge designed for smokeless powder. You’ve got some history there.”
“Would you like to see them?”
“I’m the guy.”
“They’re heavier than what you’re used to.”
“I’ll pick them up with proper body mechanics. That’s part of the sniper training. That and carrying the load.”
PACKING LIST FOR SNIPER SCHOOL (from Special Operations.Com)
1. LBE w/ 2 AMMO POUCHES AND A FIRST AID POUCH
2. LARGE RUCKSACK COMPLETE w/ FRAME
3. 2 ONE QUART CANTEENS
4. PONCHO w/ PONCHO LINER
5. WATERPROOF BAG
6. CAMMO FACE PAINT
8. PADLOCK (KEY OR COMBINATION ) 2 EA
10. 5 SETS BDUs, SOCKS, AND T-SHIRTS (MINIMUM) (one pair will be rendered unservicable after training)
11. BDU CAPS (2)
12. BOOTS 2 PAIR (COMBAT or JUNGLE) (ONE PAIR WILL BE RENDERED UNSERVICEABLE BY THE END OF TRAINING)
13. 2 GRAY ARMY PT UNIFORMs COMPLETE W/RUNNING SHOES
14. SEASONAL MILITARY ATTIRE (GORTEX, POLYPROS,ETC.)
15. CIVILIAN CLOTHING (in good taste)
16. UNDERGARMENTS, TOILETRIES, ETC, AS NEEDED
17. EARPLUGS WITH CASE (2)
18. ENTRENCHING TOOL W/CARRIER
19. LENSATIC COMPASS
20. 2 PROTRACTORS
21. PENS / MECHANICAL PENCILS
22. 1 BOONIE HAT FOR GHILLIE SUIT