First woman sniper? - Not quite!

29 December 2003
By LTC John B. Fowler

Great web site but the current National Guard article on the first female countersniper is not factual.

Back in another life, I was privileged to command MTU#1 as a Major at Ft. Meade, Maryland for 18 months from November 1987 until April 1989 at which time the unit, along with MTUs 5 and 6, was relocated, from the command and control of the AMU, then Colonel Bill Vowell at Benning, and reassigned to the three CONUS Corps, in our case 18th Airborne Corps at Ft. Bragg, with 5 and 6 going to Hood and Lewis respectively. This was the idea of the FORSCOM Commander GEN Palastra, at the instigation of his command marksmanship coordinator, Al Coots, a CWO in the USAR and a competitor in USAR competitive rifle programs. This brought about the end of competitive shooting for active duty soldiers (both combat and match rifle and pistol and M-60 machine gun) for all intents and purposes, in that installation matches were cancelled and the FORSCOM championships ended. Enough of my sour grapes history.

As part of our FY 88 METL, I tasked my rifle section and NM shop to develop a comprehensive, three week training program specifically for law enforcement marksmen, the "Special Reaction Team (SRT) Marksman Course" built around the M-21 rifle system, using the ART II scope and PVS-2 Night Vision Scope as well as iron sight familiarization. The course was to be ready by summer '88 for command review, none of our training or competition commitments would be missed and we would be ready for the first class 1 October 1988. I had outstanding NCOs (all either Distinguished, President's 100 or both and either 11Bs or 95Bs), and top-notch civilian gunsmiths (each Rock Island and AMU grads), who both personally and professionally met the challenge, on-time and on-target. We utilized the 600 yd KD range at Meade (Zero, Wind, Weather, and Moving Targets) as well as Range 9, our 300m run down range (Improvised Positions and Precision), our indoor air rifle range (teaching the use of scaled targets for sustainment training), and Range 6 (Pistol Familiarization and Basic Speed Shooting) as well as our classrooms and shop to execute the course. Each student brought their own rifle from their installation, which was inspected and air-gauged in our shop. If deficient, they were issued a loaner for the course while their rifle was rebarrelled, or rebedded or a trigger job done as needed. Unfortunately, a bad ART II would have been beyond our capability to fix, but the students we trained all brought serviceable ones, a tribute to Leatherwood. We were reimbursed for barrels via fund transfers from the student's unit and the student rezeroed with their issued rifle before leaving us also taking home a proper coated cleaning rod and jag. It was amazing to see the muzzle damage inflicted on the old barrels by GI steel rods; the Otis kits of today are truly a blessing. We provided no-cost billeting and at-cost use of the dining facility. Our instruction in terminal ballistics included a medical officer from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and our students were blessed with visits from a friend in the 10th SFG who brought along the then new XM-25, and a visitor from OPS, Inc with some new designs he was trying to sell the Army. The POI was reviewed and blessed by the MP School Directorate of Combat Developments, the FORSCOM Provost Marshal, and the AMU with Col Vowell giving me the go-ahead for FY 89 while we were at Camp Perry that summer. Our students were nominated by their respective Provost Marshal's and approved by the FORSCOM, TRADOC and AMC Provost Marshal Offices as appropriate.

Our first class 89-1 ran 3-21 October 1988, with 89-2 following 9-27 January 1989. 89-1 graduated 13 marksmen, 8 DA civilian guards from SRTs at CONUS special weapons sites, the rest active duty MP soldiers in installation SRTs, including the first female, a PFC from Ft. Hamilton, NY. She fired 100% on the Stationary Phase, 85.6% on the Movement Phase, 100% on Head Shots, and scored 87% on the written exam. 89-2 graduated 15 marksmen, 8 civilian guards from SRTs at CONUS special weapons sites and seven active duty MPs including a female Specialist from Fort Bliss, TX. She did similarly well. I have photostatic copies of records by name of these students as well other records pertaining to my time in command. The originals were moved with the unit to Ft. Bragg in 1989. Subsequently the course was dropped, then resurfaced as a one, yes one, week course taught at USAMPS by guest instructors from the AMU. I'm not sure of its status today.

Additionally, the AMU had developed and taught through the MTUs, a short counter-sniper course to civilian law enforcement agencies in the 1970s as part of its mission as defined in FORSCOM/TRADOC Suppl 1 to AR 350-6. I would tend to believe some of our active Army women rifle shooters completed these courses even before our MTU1 efforts, which would further refute the claims by the National Guard. For what its worth, sticking a potential shooter's name in a color glossy article might not be the best thing for that person or their family.

MTU #1 - Only Hits Count!

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