By Sgt. Liane Hatch | 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
FORT CARSON, Colo. — The third time’s the charm. On Feb. 19, 2020, after weather thwarted two previous plans for the 4th Infantry Division Sniper Competition — 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., was able to host a successful, though snowy, sniper competition.
“This competition really put the ‘Bravo Four’ teams — the sniper and shooter both — through a fire challenge that tested not only their technical aspects, but physical aspects as well,” said Lt. Col. Jason Lojka, battalion commander, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., 3rd ABCT. “We were excited to get the opportunity to host this competition. I was the previous company commander and ran the (sniper) schoolhouse at Fort Benning, (Georgia), in 2008 and 2009. So I have a vested interest in Bravo Fours and the capability they bring to the formation, and why they’re important as assets — particularly in our maneuver battalions.”
The battalion hosted the division competition to determine which two-Soldier sniper teams would go on to represent the division in the International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning. The competition is scheduled for April, giving the winning team a little more than a month to prepare.
The original concept for the division competition consisted of four main events over two days of testing: a known-distance shoot and a stress-shoot using the M110 semi-automatic sniper system, a 12-mile timed ruck march and an M17 pistol shoot.
However, weather cancellations and delays forced battalion planners to make rapid modifications to the event as situations dictated. Ultimately the competition was cut down to one day and two events: the known-distance shoot and stress shoot, which challenged teams to shoot at ranges from 350-950 meters.
“It would have been great to execute the competition as we had initially planned,” said 1st Lt. Jacob Nuding, battalion operations shop, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., 3rd ABCT. “We were able to keep the main events — (the events that will help the snipers on their) primary weapon system, and gave us the best picture of technical skill. Physical fitness and pistol proficiency are important, too, but the known distance and stress shoot were what mattered most.”
Of course, the weather provided its own challenge to the sniper teams.
“What we saw was the snipers were put in a very difficult situation with regard to weather,” Lojka said. “Obviously laying in cold snow will affect how the shooter will engage targets. And then the wind — there was pretty significant wind today that presented a challenge and forced (the) spotter to give wind corrections to the shooter.”
Between the division’s three combat arms brigades, four teams competed, and at the end of it all, the home team belonging to 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., 3rd ABCT, was named the victor.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Higgins, who graduated from sniper school in 2012, and Sgt. Heath Stacy, who graduated in 2018, snipers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., 3rd ABCT, have worked together for a little over a year and believe they make a great team.
“We’ve had a lot of time together, we deployed together, and this is our second range back since we returned from a deployment in November,” Stacy said. “When we don’t get range time, we do all sorts of side training and work on ways to maintain our skill sets.”
The team said winning an opportunity to compete in Georgia means everything.
“This is what you train for, what you dream of as a sniper,” Stacy said.
But they know the competition in Georgia will be much more challenging, and they’re eager to prepare.
“We plan on range time, rucking, a lot of kit workouts … so we’re going to train as if we’re getting the hardest possible challenges,” Stacy said.
Stacy added that some years the competition is completed in kit and other times without one.
“And whatever happens, we’re just proud to have won today and we’re happy to have the opportunity to go compete again,” Higgins added.