Tactical World - - Contents - Text by Jeff Cotto | Photo by Stock­trek Im­ages

Alot of peo­ple ask me what it takes to be a Ranger Sniper. I can tell the ques­tion car­ries with it the ex­pec­ta­tion of finding out some secret key that un­locks hid­den hu­man po­ten­tial. The answer is no mys­tery: It’s quiet sim­ply a lot of hard work, fo­cus and de­ter­mi­na­tion. It’s as sim­ple as set­ting a goal and mak­ing sure every de­ci­sion you make is con­sis­tent with that goal.


I started ba­sic train­ing in Ft. Ben­ning, Ga., in Novem­ber 2003. Af­ter learn­ing to jump out of per­fectly good air­planes, I went to and grad­u­ated from the RIP, the Ranger In­doc­tri­na­tion Pro­gram, which is now called RASP, or Ranger As­sess­ment and Se­lec­tion Pro­gram. The course is de­signed to weed out those who aren’t phys­i­cally or men­tally ready for the rig­ors of the 75th Reg­i­ment. Af­ter a rough eight weeks, I was as­signed to the 75th where I spent time in Al­pha Com­pany.


Be­fore go­ing to Ranger School, I had to prove to lead­er­ship that I was ready. Long story short, I went straight through to Ranger School. I remember the third phase of Ranger School in the Florida swamps. I remember my watch beep­ing one night, and I looked down to turn it off. It was Sept. 1, my 21st birth­day.

The 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment de­ploys more of­ten but for shorter du­ra­tions than con­ven­tional mil­i­tary units. Af­ter Ranger School, I was de­ployed as a SAW (MK46) gunner in Afghanistan. On my re­turn, I was se­lected by the 1st Ranger Bat­tal­ion Sniper Sec­tion’s lead­er­ship. My days were filled with learn­ing the ins and out of sniper trade craft. Be­sides the ob­vi­ous lessons in send­ing rounds way down range, I learned to stalk, make my­self in­vis­i­ble and find hides. I also learned the specifics of Sniper Oper­a­tions for the Global War On Ter­ror. I was de­ployed four times as part of a two-man sniper team – two times in Iraq and two times in Afghanistan. On my third de­ploy­ment, I was pro­moted to Staff Sergeant, and when I re­turned I was in charge of all snipers (three teams) at­tached to Bravo Com­pany. Af­ter los­ing two bud­dies in my last de­ploy­ment as a Sniper, I de­cided it was time for me to get back to the line and get af­ter it, kick­ing in doors and con­duct­ing di­rect raids.

When I got out, I did gov­ern­ment con­tract work for SOCOM, in­clud­ing 18 months as the Col­lec­tive Phase Lead for train­ing Afghan spe­cial oper­a­tions. Af­ter that, I was se­lected and as­signed to sup­port clan­des­tine ser­vices.


My jour­ney con­sisted of a sin­gle over­rid­ing choice be­ing made re­peat­edly: the choice to live be­yond my po­ten­tial. Every choice I made was driven by that over­ar­ch­ing de­ci­sion, even when it meant hon­or­ing the choices that were made for me. TW

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