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U.S. Army Special Operations Command hosts annual international sniper competition

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annual sniper competiton us socom - U.S. Army Special Operations Command hosts annual international sniper competition

Teams from around the globe were at Fort Bragg earlier this month to compete among the best sniper teams in the world. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition, which took place March 17-22, drew 21 teams.

The overall intent was to foster camaraderie among representatives from the United States and the international advanced sniper community, organizers said.

Teams from Army Special Operations Command took first- and second-place; the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper team placed third. Organizers said the competition is a combat-oriented series of events intended to challenge the skill level, training and knowledge of participants in sniper and reconnaissance tactical and technical skill sets.

It is held to challenge comfort zones and capabilities with the goal of identifying training shortfalls and sharing best practices, organizers said.

“Our instructors designed the events,” said Maj. William Cunningham, commander, Range 37, 1st Special Warfare Training Group. “All the guys that instruct here are guys that have performed exceptionally well in the operational force. This is a part of their passion.”

The events are created by instructors of the Special Forces sniper course and change each year. This was the 10th year the competition was held. This year’s focus was on mental agility in real-world tactical applications. The teams competed using their own sniper rifle, carbine and pistol. Each event had time limits, along with a limited amount of ammunition.

Competitors couldn’t talk to anyone or see the stages prior to going through the course, said Master Sgt. Josh, a Special Forces sniper course instructor. Sounds, artillery simulators and bunkers were used to “induce chaos,” meaning the plans the snipers had prior to the competition might not have been the same as when they competed, Master Sgt. Josh said.

“This year we wanted to focus on bringing guys in who may shoot competitively on the side but the core tasks would revolve around real-world application rather than shooting off of barrels under a pro-timer,” he said.

Teams that competed included:

  • U.S. Army Special Operations Command
  • 1st, 3rd, 7th, 10th, 19th and 20th Special Forces Group
  • U.S. Marine Corps, 2nd Marine Raider Battalion
  • U.S. Marine Corps, MARSOF Advanced Sniper Course
  • U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper
  • Naval Special Warfare
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • France, 1st Premier Regiment de Parachutistes d’Infranterie de Marine
  • Germany, Kommando Spezialkrafte
  • Ireland, army Ranger Wing
  • Italy, 9th Paratroopers Assault Regiment
  • International Special Training Center
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Time for Change in U.S. Special Operations Command?

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annual sniper competiton us socom - Time for Change in U.S. Special Operations Command?

Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command has gained manpower and money as well as responsibility for an ever-wider range of missions. But now Congress is beginning to question, and push back against, the commando mission-creep.

At present SOCOM is the lead agency for U.S. military counterterrorism operations and security-force assistance. The latter involves U.S. forces training foreign armies and other proxy forces.

SOCOM in 2016 also assumed the lead role in combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction, a mission that previously belonged to U.S. Strategic Command. More recently, SOCOM became the lead command for America’s “military information support operations.” In essence, propaganda.

The command wants even more responsibility, according to CRS. “The current unified command plan stipulates USSOCOM responsibility for synchronizing planning for global operations to combat terrorist networks,” CRS noted.

This focus on planning limits its ability to conduct activities designed to deter emerging threats, build relationships with foreign militaries and potentially develop greater access to foreign militaries.”

USSOCOM is proposing changes that would, in addition to current responsibilities, include the responsibility for synchronizing the planning, coordination, deployment and, when directed, the employment of special operations forces globally and will do so with the approval of the geographic combatant commanders, the services and, as directed, appropriate U.S. government agencies.

Further, the proposed changes would give broader responsibility to USSOCOM beyond counterterrorism activities, to include activities against other threat networks.

But the world has changed in those nearly two decades. Congress increasingly has questioned SOCOM’s sprawling responsibilities and recently ordered two separate reviews of the command.

Lawmakers in part were motivated by reports of misconduct by SOCOM personnel as well as by SOCOM’s alleged participation in conflicts for which Congress did not provide authorization, specifically in Niger.

Four SOCOM troops died on Oct. 4, 2017 when militants ambushed their patrol in Niger in Central Africa.

“Prior to starting out on the ill-fated patrol, two junior officers, including an Army captain who remained at the base in Niger and the team leader, falsified a document to get approval for a mission to kill or capture a local ISIS leader,” CNN reported.

“That mission was never approved by the proper chain of command, according to [an official] summary. A much lower-risk mission was instead submitted and approved. However, the team was unable to locate the ISIS leader during their unauthorized mission.”

“Some believe this situation calls into question the adequacy of civilian oversight and control of U.S. SOF,” according to CRS.

The reviews of SOCOM that CRS mentioned will “take an introspective look at U.S. SOF’s culture, roles and responsibilities, adequacy of resources, organizational structure and the adequacy of training, education and personnel,” the research service reported.

“Some have suggested these provisions are a precursor for congressional and [Defense Department] actions to ‘rein in and reorient’ U.S. SOF from fighting terrorists to taking on nation-states, instead.”

Aware that U.S. [special operations forces] are overburdened and that there is a need to find the right balance between continuing to challenge terrorist organizations while simultaneously addressing growing irregular warfare threats posed by nation-states, policymakers will likely make good use of the two forthcoming congressionally mandated reviews.

It is possible that over the next few years, significant public policy debates on the future of USSOCOM and U.S. SOF will be undertaken, potentially resulting in a number of changes.

After 17 years at the forefront of the global military campaign against terrorism, policymakers, defense officials, and academics are questioning the future role of USSOCOM and U.S. SOF.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

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US SOF strengthen relationships with allied partners through combined training

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us and romanian sof joint training - US SOF strengthen relationships with allied partners through combined training

U.S. Air Force’s 7th Special Operation Squadron, assigned to 352nd Special Operation Wing, based out of Mildenhall, England, deployed to Bacau, March 10-15, 2019, to conduct mission essential tasks, and simultaneously, familiarize Romanian SOF with the CV-22 Osprey.

“The importance is not only for the commonality of our tactics, techniques, and procedures between US forces and partner forces but combining that within the NATO spectrum to make sure we are all operating in the same format,” said a U.S. Air Force Special Operations Capt., the mission commander for the training event and flight lead pilot . “Being able to get these staged drills out of the way now in a safe and effective training environment, allows us to be able to have the confidence to forward deploy in any contingency operation.”

The 7th SOS operates the CV-22B Osprey throughout the entire range of military operations in support of conventional and special operations. The 7th SOS executes this mission at night, in adverse weather, performing long-range insertion, extraction and resupply missions in hostile, denied and politically sensitive territories.

US and ROU SOF conducted day and night fast rope infiltration and exfiltration operations (FRIES) and low-level flying. These capabilities are something ROU SOF are (trained and) skilled in; however, this was their first time conducting FRIES out of the CV-22.

“Everyone here had used fast rope before, on different platforms, so they understood their techniques,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt., 7th SOS, special mission aviator. “One of the main differentiators from our side was just reminding them that the CV-22 creates a lot more downwash and it’s a much different experience when it comes to deploying out of our aircraft, compared to a conventional rotary wing aircraft.”

Through these pieces of training, SOF members demonstrate and strengthen partner nation relationships and air operations in the European Theatre.

“The ROU SOF was able to extend the CV-22 familiarization training invitation to other units that are not co-located here at Bacau,” said the mission commander. “So they were able to cycle through as many of their special operation ground forces as they could, during this timeframe.”

Along with developing combined leaders, this deployment gave the US SOF members the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.

“I’ve been flying for the Air Force for 15 years, and all my training has been stateside, so even for me in the short time I’ve moved to RAF Mildenhall,” said U.S. Air Force Capt., an instructor pilot for the 7th SOS. “I’ve learned a lot working with Allied partners, whether it’s working through language barriers or just the different techniques. It’s eye-opening.”

The 7th SOS mission commander was very thankful for the ability to utilize the diverse NATO terrain and base resources to accomplish their objectives.

“The Romanian Government and Air Force Base here in Bacau have been extremely supportive with their ability to reach out to us and help,” said the mission commander. “They’ve been able to work on request, with short notice, to include base access, providing us workspace and just being very accommodating when it comes to airspace and tower-controlled patterns that they run here on the airfield.”

This collaborative training event allows each force to improve its individual and collective capabilities, and the 352nd SOW and ROU SOF will continue to train shoulder-to-shoulder in similar exercises.

“The biggest takeaway for me, is the Romanian partners are more than willing to host us, but they are thirsty to work with us as far as continued training,” said the mission commander. “Looking forward to coming back, not just in Bacau but into Romania in general, so that we can work in the dynamic air space that they have, and their terrain, but also working with the ROU SOF members who seem to be very much interested in working with specialized air power like the tilt-rotor Osprey.”

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