(Recently, Sniper Country sent two staff members -- "X-Ring" and "Mr. Bain" -- to the basic and advanced countersniper courses at the Storm Mountain Training Facility in West Virginia. As this was being written, both men were busy making preparations to go. This particular "From the High Ground" column is an edited summation of some E-mailed correspondence which addresses some of the considerations our staff was addressing in preparation for attending those courses. By the way -- to the uninformed, Mr. Bain may seem to be rather new at this. There's a reason for that. He WAS new at this! In his everyday life, Mr. Bain is a highly-placed professional in the legal field and, as such, lends his expertise in that area to Sniper Country; he also contributes material on, and advises our staff about, matters related to the laws of land warfare, defense industry trends in the development of sniper equipment, and several other non-classified pieces of information. Though new to "field life," Mr. Bain is one of the charter members of our staff and, as such, is a key player in keeping Sniper Country the most innovative website of its kind. X-Ring, on the other hand, has extensive prior military service in his background, and is thoroughly familiar with all facets of "field life," tactical operations, and sniper training. Upon their completion of these countersniper courses, both men began writing their reviews of the training provided by Storm Mountain. This is a RARE opportunity for you, the reader, to "be there" with Sniper Country!)
From an August, 1997, piece of E-mail sent to both me and to X-Ring, Mr. Bain addressed some concerns and questions:
I don't have a poncho or sleeping mat. Should I get them? Is your poncho the woodland pattern, or what? Do I need a liner?
I will see if [the Storm Mountain point of contact] can get us some topos of the area. Plus, we should have a first aid kit. Do you have one? I am looking into bug spray as well. Anything else we need?
For my response, I sent the following E-mail to both Mr. Bain and X-Ring.
Good ideas, all. For a guy who's never done military service, you're alright in my book.
From my experience, and as an Army officer, please consider my following comments (I've planned -- and executed -- more than my share of "ops"):
First, go over your current list, and for each item, ask yourself four questions:
Second, health. I am not @#%!#^%# kidding, take pills with you. Potassium, Vitamin C, a good B-Complex, pain killers (Ibuprofen literally got my 34-year-old body through what is really a 17-year-old kid's Air Assault School -- and no, I'm not kidding... the other old farts trying to keep up with the "kids" were taking similar over-the-counter products), a source of salt, and any medication you may be currently taking under a doctor's prescription. Want to know one of the biggest "mission killers" there is? In a word, "cramps." I kid you not, gentlemen, cramps will ruin your weekend. I've seen it happen, and I've experienced it. Cold temperatures, lowered resistance, not enough potassium, little (if any) sleep -- cramps will grab you like a sumo wrestler on PCP and slam you into submission in a heartbeat!!! Do not neglect your health on this operation, gentlemen.
Third, mental preparedness to do battle. If you take this as a game, you will fail. If you take this as anything less than "the real McCoy," you will fail. Reality will sneak up from behind you and slit your f**king throat -- silently, without hesitation, without mercy. Many times, before going to this course, Get away from it!!! I don't care what you do, but put it aside! Go play racketball, run, swim, play golf (gag, puke, choke), work out at the gym, or whatever. Do something that is: 1) physically exerting, and 2) takes your mind completely off this mission. Why? Two reasons.
A. Ever see the movie "Bridge Over the River Kwai?" Good movie. Good LESSON, in the line "there's always one more thing to do." Failure to plan is planning to fail. Period.
B. When I was a math major, many years ago, the instructor I had for calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations ("Diffy Q") told me -- and the other students in his class -- something I've never forgotten. There was a lake on our campus, and he said, prior to taking each of his exams, "The best way to prepare for this [or any] test is to go out and walk around the lake for a while." In saying this, he described how he fully expected each of his students to study for his tests but, more importantly, he explained the immeasurable value of clearing the mind, putting things aside, and making peace within yourself before "the final moment." Remember this: "Amateurs 'charge' the hill. Professionals 'remove' the hill." (Like it? It's mine, and it's original -- but it certainly applies to what you're about to undertake.)
Sleeping mats, poncho liners, topographical maps... good ideas. Also, take rope and string, stereo wire (it's light and strong, and you never know when you'll need it), and sunscreen (although, covered up as you will be, I doubt you'll need it -- be prepared). On bug spray, I haven't come across too many things that are better than Cutter's but, whatever you take, make sure it's effective. Also, take tweezers, for tics -- and don't cry-baby about modesty, either. Checking each other's bodies for tics, including orifices if necessary, does not mean you're "one of them thar funny boys," but it sure as heck might mean you're both still alive months and years after this operation is over. You lose all modesty when you're a soldier. (X-Ring, you already know this. Mr. Bain, you may have to learn this.)
Lastly (that is, until I think of something else), remember what I've said before, about John Plaster's philosophy of "treating each shot as if it's the last shot you'll ever take." It doesmake a difference in your shooting.
Good luck, and good hunting.