From the High Ground
Thoughts on Entering Military Service and on Being a Sniper in the Military

20 Aug 1996
By Condor

Recently, a friend of mine forwarded a piece of E-mail to me that he received from a young man who wants to join the service and become a sniper. My friend, who will remain anonymous, sent it along to me asking for my thoughts. Here is his correspondence. I will sign it with a different name to protect his privacy. Addressed to my friend, here is what the young man wrote:

"I have just recently looked through the Sniper Country Guest Book. I read a few of your stories and comments and was impressed. For the last couple of years I have been seriously considering military service. My admiration is utmost for those who have fought and died for this country. Carlos Hathcock has been an inspiration to me. Not because of the fact that he wasted 93 gooks, but because of his sense of duty and loyalty to his fellow marines. I am greatly interested in sniping. I consider it to be a valuable asset on the battlefield. My military experience is practically nonexistent. My family pushes me to become an officer but, I don't believe I could become a sniper as an officer. I am only 17 and I don't know if I am cut out to be a sniper but, I want to see. Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.


Try to imagine the worst way of life you can. Now, multiply that times 14. Now square it. Now add 400. That being done, you're nowhere NEAR what it's like to be in the military as an enlisted man, or as an officer. Headaches, B.S., undeserved blame, screaming, B.S., crappy hours, little or NO free time, questionable quality in food, heat, cold, humidity, dryness, clothes that don't fit right, B.S., someone trying to kill you, someone saying that you kill children for fun, digging up landmines, emplacing landmines, checking landmines, B.S., equipment made by the lowest bidder (to ESPECIALLY include your weapons), MORE undeserved blame, urinalysis tests, poking, prodding, physical testing, academic testing, studying, studying, studying, studying, studying, studying, studying, studying, teaching (yes, teaching), following unreasonable (though "legal") orders, following stupid (though "legal") orders, following deadly (though "legal") orders, ISSUING unreasonable (though "legal") orders, ISSUING stupid (though "legal") orders, ISSUING deadly (though "legal") orders, B.S., bugs crawling on you, bugs feeding off of you, bugs KILLING you, germs KILLING you, toxic gases KILLING you... oh, and did you say you wanted to be a sniper? Oh, well, in that case, you can also add:

Little or no support if an operation you're on that goes bad, crapping in your pants and urinating in your pants because you can't run off to a latrine because you'll blow your stalk or give away your hide, running out of food, equipment that was built by the lowest bidder (including your weapons AND optics), failure to receive credit unless you've got a "confirmed" kill, watching through your scope as the bullet you just launched takes off the head, from the nose up, of your target -- then LIVING with what you've done, and doing it AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN -- bugs, bugs, bugs, and more bugs... bugs you've got on you that you CAN'T swat for tactical reasons, bugs that can kill you, bugs that you've got to eat because you've run out of food (did I mention little or NO support while you're on a mission?), if you're caught you could be sliced, diced, tortured, raped (yes, raped), skinned alive and then killed "just because" you're a sniper (snipers get "special" treatment by the enemy).

You should NOT join the military because you'll be given financial assistance for college, or because you'll receive job training, because you'll get a steady paycheck, or because your girlfriend will think you look snazzy in uniform. Nobody JOINS the military to become Rambo, they GET OUT because they're Rambo. The military is NOT the place for John Rambo. If you've never read "Murphy's Laws of Combat," you should. You really should.

Sniping isn't just killing people. It's B.S., too. You can't forget the B.S., because it's always there, no matter what rank or job you have. As a sniper, you're an intelligence gatherer, you make and file reports, you have to NOT engage targets that you "know" you should (because your unreasonable-but-legal orders forbid it), and all the time... someone is trying to hunt YOU down, to kill YOU, because YOU'RE a SNIPER! Fun? It's not fun, it's B.S., and it's just a job. Snipers support the mission, support the commander, and save lives. It's tough work and it's not glamorous.

Why should you become a sniper? Carlos Hathcock said it best, that the job picks the man, not the other way around. Believe it. You hear and read about all the "successful" snipers. What if you're not one of them. What if you turn into some psychotic killer? What if you end up beating your wife, using drugs, abusing your children, and living off welfare. It happens, and I've SEEN it happen. Killing people is "grown up" business, it's NOT for kids. If you ARE a kid, you WON'T be after you're first kill. Never again. No more innocence. You can't go back. If you really do want to be a sniper, do it because snipers SAVE lives, not because you want to kill. Also, in your letter to my friend, you referred to Vietnamese people using the "G" word... and I want to comment on that.

It is ALMOST a "necessity" to objectify your enemy in war, for many reasons including psychological ones, because it makes it easier to kill them. A "little" easier. Remember, however, that the guy whose head you're about to take off might have a wallet with pictures of his wife, his kids, his daughter's first birthday party, a letter from his mom telling him that she's worried about him, maybe a letter from his wife saying that she's divorcing him to marry the guy she's been having the affair with while he was gone serving his country. Maybe he's had a hard day. Maybe he's been eating bugs, too, because HE'S gotten "little or no support," and so on. And now, you're about to kill him. See, he's really not a "G" word, he's a human being who isn't going to ever see his family, his friends, or mow his yard or play with his dog ever again. He's NOT a "G" word, he's a person. Remember that. Think what you have to in order to do the job, but when it's over, really over, remember that the "targets" you "serviced" were once living people, and they aren't anymore because of YOU. Period.

If you want to be a sniper, try for the job, and if your instructors think you have what it takes, fine. If, however, they say you don't pass the course, then... move on! Have something else to fall back on! Exercise your options! Again, like Carlos said, the job picks the man, not the other way around. If the job DOESN'T pick you, then "get a life" and MOVE ON! Snipers are a special breed, yes, but if you aren't a sniper it doesn't mean you're a piece of dirt. It just means what it means... that you aren't a sniper.

So, why SHOULD you join the military? I'll give you three reasons. Because you love your country, you love your country, and because you love your country.

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