KN, p. 135 “What does it take to be a sniper?”


Sniper:  an expert marksman that operates from a concealed position some distance from the target, usually having the additional advantage of elevation.


Snipers have been used as an effective strategy in fighting wars for over 200 years. They came into use in law enforcement as a way to combat domestic terrorism without involving the military. There is more to it than being a great shot, and there are several differences between police and military sniper jobs as well as different types of training involved.


A law enforcement sniper in a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) unit generally operates as part of a team in hostage situations or other hi-risk events, sometimes to provide protection, sometimes to eliminate the threat of a specific target. The targets are generally under 100 yards away and the assignments are usually completed in a few hours. Police snipers shoot only as a last resort.


A military sniper works with a spotter or a team to protect and defend his military unit from harm while they are on assignment during wartime. He is typically shooting from a higher, concealed place, so that he can spot the enemy and alert the troops below of enemy movement. On occasion, a military sniper is shooting at a target 1000 or more yards away. The record for a long distance confirmed kill shot is currently held by British Army CoH Craig Harrison, achieved in November, 2009, at a range of 2,707 yards.


SWAT team members have sometimes entered law enforcement after serving in the military, so if you’ve ever wondered what it takes, here are some of the requirements from both military and civilian routes.


Each of the branches of the military has similar basic training programs, but vary slightly because of the specific needs of each.


Potential Marine Snipers (like Special Agent Gibbs on NCIS) can expect a rigorous thirteen-week training schedule after Marine Boot Camp and then additional training, depending on the specialty.

While in Boot Camp the candidates must attain at minimum:

  • Expert rating with rifles
  • Physical Fitness Test (PFT) with a first class score
  • Swimming test – including 30 minutes treading water and testing whether the recruits can survive in the water while wearing all combat gear (rifle, helmet, flak jacket and pack)
  • 20/20 vision, no color blindness


There is Infantry Training after Boot Camp where the candidate may volunteer for scout/sniper school at either Recon School or at the Infantry Battalion. The candidate must have scored well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), have no Courts Martial on record, be of sound mind, and have achieved the rank of at least Lance Corporal.


Just in case you’re wondering what is required past the basic Physical Fitness Test (which is mostly about cardio fitness and endurance while wearing workout clothes), all Marines must now complete a Combat Fitness Test while wearing the complete uniform (boots, etc)


Combat Fitness Test Requirements

Age 880 Yard Run Ammo Can Lifts Maneuver Under Fire
17-26 3:48 45 3:29
27-39 4:00 45 3:55
40-45 4:19 44 3:57
46+ 4:30 43 4:28



Army Sniper

It is suggested that a candidate for an Army Sniper spot must be great at math and science, in order to know how to adjust the angle of a shot for wind speed, direction and target range.


They should have learned the basics of marksmanship and have entered shooting competitions before enlisting in the Army.


Graduating from Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) means that you have passed the minimums. You are given two minutes for each:   pushups and sit-ups. The two-mile run is timed. The chart below shows minimum requirements.


Age Group




2-Mile Run

17 – 21









22 – 26










After graduating from Boot Camp, the candidate will wait for a sniper opening and then try out.

It is possible to become a spotter for a sniper as an alternate plan. Spotters go along to protect and defend the sniper from enemy attack and keep track of the enemy while helping the sniper adjust his shots. 


Navy SEAL Sniper

During training, the candidate learns about digital photography, computer imaging and satellite communication.

After the technical part is mastered, he also learns about camouflage, patrolling, and how to get in and out of hostile territory without leaving any trace behind – not even bullet casings.

Advanced marksmanship is only one part of this training. No out of shape hunters need apply. Navy SEALS have one of the most demanding physical training regimens anywhere.


FBI Sniper

FBI snipers are part of elite SWAT and Hostage Rescue Teams (HRT)

They must be able to work independently and in team situations, since they often arrive at the scene before any local task force and have eyes on the targets before anybody else does.


Minimum requirements for the FBI:

  • The candidate must be 23-37
  • Four year college degree
  • Three years on the job experience.
  • Must pass a variety of physical, medical and drug tests and interviews.

Then, if accepted, candidates attend the FBI Academy in a 21 week training program, then serve in a field office for at least two years.

After the two years, they can volunteer for SWAT or HRT training and then must attend Marine Sniper Course for 12.5 weeks.

Every field office has its own SWAT team.


Still want to be a sniper? Before you open the door to the recruiter’s office, think.


  • Do you have what it takes to get through all the training?
  • Can you handle the intensity of the job?
  • Are you good at waiting?
  • Can you lie on the ground, motionless for long stretches at a time?
  • Are you patient?
  • Are you capable of pulling the trigger and actually making the kill shot?


For more information about sniper training, click on the links below:


*Photos of Police and Secret Service snipers courtesy of Wikipedia.



KN, p.127 “A Visit to Arlington National Cemetery”



Arlington National Cemetery, the most famous of the USA’s military cemeteries, turned 150 years old on June 15, 2014. Special ceremonies were held from May through June to commemorate the anniversary. “Honor the Tradition, Remember the Sacrifice, Explore the History,” written in the cemetery brochure, was/is a thoughtful reminder for all who walk through the hallowed grounds.


We had a chance to visit on a misty day in October, picked up a map from a helpful guide in the Welcome Center, and spent several hours in the peaceful 624 acre landscaped rolling hills. As we passed the thousands of headstones – over 400,000 active duty military service people and their families – we were struck with the size of the place. The stats on the website didn’t prepare me for the reality of the graves that stretched to the hilltops and beyond, or the hush that settled over everyone. There were no loud voices, no running children or barking dogs, even with the hundreds of fellow visitors all around us.


The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was on our list to see.




This memorial contains the remains of unknown servicemen from WW1, WW2, and the Korean War. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment keep vigil. The changing of the honor guard is scheduled for every hour.







We hadn’t realized it, but members of the public can participate in wreath-laying ceremonies at the Tomb. We had the privilege of witnessing two groups. The website provides information about how to arrange to do this – anywhere from five weeks to six months ahead of time.




Full Military Honors

The quiet was broken by the sound of guns in the distance. Our brochure told us that Arlington National Cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services Monday through Friday as well as several on Saturday. Our path took us closer to an apparent salute in progress.

All the visitors were safely behind ropes and fences while the guns were going off. And they were loud! My camera jumped (a LOT) the first couple of times I tried to get the photo of the guns in action. There was a long time between each boom and we found out that about 45 minutes before the service of higher-ranking officers, the cannons/guns/rifles will begin firing. This signals attendees that they should gather at the graveside while the casket is traveling through the cemetery.


Then once the service has been completed, the appropriate number of shots will be fired again, in quick succession.


Commissioned and warrant officers buried at Arlington receive standard military honors, and can also have an escort platoon and a military band. When we saw the horse drawn caisson carrying the flag-covered casket on the road above us, accompanied by a good-sized band, we figured the deceased had to have been pretty important. We kept track of the initial rounds and knew there had been fifteen.


Here are the rules for numbers of shots fired:


  • General/flag officers of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps may receive a cannon salute (17 guns for a four-star general, 15 for a three-star, 13 for a two-star, 11 for a one-star), if available.
  • Minute Guns may be used for general officers/flag officers of the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps.
  • The President of the United States is entitled to a 21-gun salute, while other high state officials receive 19 guns.


We were told later that the deceased had been a Vice-Admiral.



One of our stops during the visit was at the graves for President John F. Kennedy and his family. It seemed to be a popular memorial, with a eclectic mix of visitors. International tourists were curious and took selfie snapshots; Americans paid their respects to a President assassinated while in Office; a teenager got a history lesson while standing next to a senior citizen; a group of the Vice-Admiral mourners stopped and chatted quietly before moving on. Many had tears in their eyes and one older gal openly sobbed. It’s hard not to be affected once you round the corner and see the eternal flame.


There are dozens of monuments erected to honor the dead throughout the cemetery. There are only two Presidents interred at ANC. This is a list of ten representative memorials, with more information about each (from the ANC website).


·       3rd Infantry Division Monument

·       Argonne Cross (WW I)

·       Battle of the Bulge Memorial

·       Confederate Memorial

·       McClellan Gate

·       Pan Am Flight 103 Memorial Cairn

·       Pentagon Group Burial Marker

·       President William Howard Taft Monument

·       Robert F. Kennedy Gravesite

·       Spanish-American War Memorial



Arlington National Cemetery is operated and managed by the Department of the Army. ANC Explorer is a mobile app that can be used by visitors to locate gravesites and/or conduct self-guided tours. If you travel to our nation’s capital, Arlington National Cemetery should be on your must-see list, and the app will help explain some of our history not always covered in school.


Thank/help/employ a Veteran. Their sacrifices have helped to keep you free.





*Photos by Patti Phillips








KN, p. 56 “How many cannons at Gettysburg?”


Cannon located along the line of trees on Seminary Ridge.


Our trip to Gettysburg started with a stop at the Visitor’s Center where we picked up guide books and maps of the Gettysburg National Military Park. We decided to take the self-guided tour through the 6,000 acres of battlefields so that we could take plenty of photos and move at our own pace. Our plan was to follow the maps in order of the original battles 149 years ago. We had three days to get it done.


It’s tough not to be struck by the different terrain the soldiers had to deal with – gradual hills, wide fields cut with a few split rail fences, tree covered rocky outcroppings. It was sunny and hot during our drive, so weather conditions were pretty similar to that of the soldiers back then. Except we were wearing shorts, had on comfortable shoes, carried plenty of water, and we were traveling by car. The Union and Confederate soldiers were not as well equipped.


There were cannons everywhere. The guidebooks said that over 650 guns were hauled into the area by both horses and men. Much of the artillery seen on the hills today saw use during the Gettysburg campaigns.


There are a few reasons that cannons played a big role at Gettysburg:

*The constant, deafening level of noise was meant to demoralize the infantry waiting for orders to cross the open fields.

*Holding the high ground was easier with the cannons firing from close to a mile away, cutting down soldiers before they moved in on the hill.

*The large percentage of rifled guns meant that cannons could be fired with greater accuracy over a distance than the smoothbore cannons. That resulted in more damage to more men in the enemy camp with minimal risk to your own side.


This is a cast iron rifled gun, stamped (starting clockwise at 12:00) with the serial number of the gun, the manufacturer, the year of production, the weight of the gun, and last, the inspector’s initials (9:00).


Rear view of cannon, showing knob used to adjust the angle of the cannon, which changes the range of the shot.


Statue in honor of men who fired and maintained the cannons, valuable pieces of equipment at Gettysburg.


Downtown Gettysburg building. The small flag shows the location of a cannonball fired during one of the skirmishes through town.




My dad (who served in the infantry in WW2) told me once that basic training included crawling under barbed wire during live ammo fire from either artillery or rifles firing across the fields in front of the soldiers. If you panicked and stood up, you were dead.


At Gettysburg, if a soldier had a grudge against a guy in his outfit, it would not have been that hard to shoot him in the back during one of the charges. Who would have bothered to check each body to see where the kill shot came from, when thousands of guys lay dead in the fields?


Field Cannons



*Source: Holt, Betsy. “Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center: Official Guidebook,” Nashville, Tennessee, Beckon Books, 2011.


*Source: Newton, George W. “Silent Sentinels: A Reference Guide to the Artillery at Gettysburg,” New York, NY, Savas Beatie LLC, 2005.



*Photos by Patti Phillips




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