It is no hidden fact that in various conflicts women have operated as snipers and have performed brilliantly in combat, just look the USSR in World War 2 for confirmation. You can also read about some individual female snipers in our history section as well. But for the first time in US Army history, a female soldier is now a fully qualified sniper and has been awarded the coveted B4 identifier.
This story has extra meaning to me personally as this first female graduate is a member of the Montana National Guard, which is where I served as a sniper several decades ago. But back then women were not even allowed to be in the infantry. Progress continues and it is outstanding that we have reached this point.
This announcement was made this week by the US Army and while the name of the soldier has not been released, we do know that she went straight from One Station Unit Training (OSUT), which incorporates both basic training and advanced individual training into one longer school at Fort Benning, Georgia. She was a part of a new program where the US Army takes a select few students that have excelled in OSUT and sends them straight to Sniper School. The Army had tried this same approach back in the 1990’s and it failed miserably with only one of two of the candidates ever graduating. But the program today is better integrated with OSUT and OSUT itself does a much better job preparing the sniper school candidates, and frankly, the quality of soldier has likely gotten better as well.
Sniper School is a very demanding and difficult school and the standards are the same for every student, regardless of gender. For a more detailed look at the school you can read about my own personal experience. The school now is even two weeks longer than it was when I went through with some added content for urban and desert operations. By all accounts this female graduate is an outstanding soldier and we offer our congratulations! If she reads this and is interested, we are still located here in Montana and we would love to conduct an interview (confidentialities can be maintained), and hear your story. But in the mean time, good job, and now its time to continue the fine sniping tradition of not only the US Army, but the Montana National Guard.
This is great! Women have always had a history in the sniper world. It was bound to happen in the US Army. When I went through US Army sniper school in 2005 we had the NCOIC of the the Israeli sniper school visit, that person was a woman. I’m sure they don’t just hand that position to anyone. Enjoyed the write up and love the last name.
“Progress continues and it is outstanding that we have reached this point”
Mel, I respect you immensely but let’s just say I disagree with that statement wholeheartedly. I retired as an 11B some years ago and had several combat deployments. Females have no place in this MOS. This is a physical field and it is no exaggeration to say that life may hinge in one’s ability to carry wounded out of the field of battle. It is also no exaggeration that women present monthly problems in field that men don’t and last but certainly not least is the fact that men and women together in the field will lead to physical complications. Passing a watered down (and yes it is watered down) infantry, sniper and selection course doesn’t change biological facts. Our previous leaders were not stupid and they used good, sound logic when they prohibited women from combat arms. Not sure why you’re going here but combat should be the last place for wokeness. No offense is intended but not everyone agrees with this.
Chris, no offense is taken and I appreciate feedback and open discussion and thoughts, even if critical of what I wrote. I had a hard time deciding if I should write that statement or not, but in the end I did because everything I read indicated there was not a change of standard for women going through sniper school. If we are going to allow both genders to serve side by side, then I agree with you, there simply cannot be a change of standard because of gender, the 220lb guy next to you is not gonna get lighter because you are a female. I do not know what the Army has done for infantry standards, but for the Sniper School, everything is the same no matter what, and that is what I am writing about here. Females have a long and successful history as snipers (see the comment above about the Female Israeli Sniper School NCOIC). Now, an argument can be made that the standards at sniper school were relaxed during the great sniper run up during the GWOT, but that has nothing to do with allowing women through, that came after the change.
Thanks for the comments and shedding different views on this.
“because everything I read indicated there was not a change of standard for women going through sniper school”
What the army says and what the army does are two totally different things. In my somewhat educated opinion, the US military has become totally politicized. Flaunting women graduates out as “proof” of equality. Some may disagree but they will never convince me it was a fair standard. Now, as far as women snipers in history, when pushed to a point of desperation where women must be used, then yes, they have performed admirably. But what was the measuring criteria? A little bit of something is better than all of nothing. That doesn’t mean we’re equal. Would a platoon of female infantry soldiers be equal to a platoon of male infantry? Would they be as strong? As fast? As mentally strong in the face of extreme violence? I highly doubt it. In Russia, for example how many women spetsnaz operators have you heard of? Actually, I have heard of some but but with the caveat that they are used differently. Sort of a sneak element when women can get in or through places men can’t. That I can understand. Women do have certain traits that are very useful. That said I am sure no Russian commander believes a female operator is equal to a male operator. Why I bring up Russia SF is simply because it is an old school more brutal type and not quite as concerned with the appearance of equality compared to our SF community. Not saying anything bad about our operators and I’m sure hell week is …well…hell. That said it seems our country has a serious case of wokevid and it has funneled into our military and the face of equality overshadows reality.
In summary, Men and women are different. We compliment each other each other strengths and weaknesses. Compliment not compete.
The question is, “Did someone have their thumb on the scale(command pressure)?” After reports came out on the prep the first females had that made it thru Ranger School people wonder. Throw in the issues at the SOF Q course at Fort Bragg while we are on the topic. The sad part is that even if this female made it thru the course according to the same standards that everyone else did, many people will question whether her accomplishment was legitimate. I for one wish her the best and hope she (and her fellow soldiers) are deadly should they be called into battle.
My understanding is that she actually failed at least once and was recycled, which is common among male soldiers as well, so I took that as a legitimate sign that they were not being pressured to pass her and that she had to meet the standards like everyone else.
I went thru jump school in 1986 and the standards was different for men and women during PT. And this was just jump school. Jump school used to be for men only at one time, but they allowed women in the school and the standards was lower just them. That little bit of information came from a retired GREEN BERET.
Great article Mel,
I personally thought it was great that a female graduated Sniper school. I graduated Sniper school in 2010 and was honored to receive my B4, and I can say that some women would make great snipers. I served with more than a few male snipers who were not fit for the role when push came to shove. Plus we were always going out with a security team on most missions because the commanders hardly ever let us operate in traditional 2 man teams. As long as the standards are the same, then what difference does it make? The German Army utilizes women fairly successfully, and I think women would make great snipers. Coming from the mouth of an actual fairly recent B4 holder.
Thanks Derek for your input
A bit off this topic, but I was hoping you could fill me in. I am curious if you could give me an update on the use of silencers in todays sniping world. I have looked but have not seen many references to this topic. Fwiw, I retired from the Army as an 11B some years ago and while I was in I was sent to a civilian “sniper school” which was good but unfortunately not B4 identifier good . My biggest regret is never getting a slot for SS since it was, for lack of a better word, a passion of mine. So with the exception of that 7 day course, most of my skills were self taught. As the years have gone by I have focused on other things and my knowledge of the current state is lacking. Appreciate any wisdom you could pass along.
A bit off topic, but not a problem! 🙂
Silencers/Suppressors have become common place in the sniping world, the big switchover happening during the early stages of the GWOT. Call it 2010, that they became nearly standard. Suppressors actually can improve accuracy (there is a good amount of science behind controlling the gasses out of the muzzle, etc) and there are obvious tactical advantages to using them. Of course, nothing comes for free, so there are downsides as well. They will change your zero when you mount them versus when they are not mounted, but the shift is repeatable. And the size and weight is another issue that is also taken into account. They do require some maintenance as well.
Thanks for the response. From my, admittedly dated, manuals and teachings it had always been relayed to me suppressors were, not useless but not necessarily worth the effort since the sonic crack would still be present. Now I know there are no absolutes but, in your opinion, it would be worth switching out my barrels for threaded barrels? The Remington will be a pain but the Savages will be easy.
The crack is still there, but it is still far more quiet than unsuppressed and it is extremely difficult to get a precise location of the shooter based on the crack, but the big “boom” from a rifle is much easier to track. I would not replace the barrel but rather just have a gunsmith thread your existing barrel. Usually can be done for around $100.
It is an extraordinary accomplishment for a woman and yes – it becomes politicized instantly for and against her. However I agree with Chris W. in regards to female physical limitations (though they have been known to surprise us!) – sniper school cannot replicate the physical demands and mental stress of warfare – it’s only a test. Perhaps this woman will never see such conditions. A school is a controlled environment – graduating doesn’t mean you’ll ‘make the cut’ when SHTF! A Harvard law degree doesn’t make you a great lawyer! I made it through USMC boot camp in the early 80’s – I was proud of it as I was 24YO going in and the dropout rate was fairly high. I had a lot of company at graduation – my point being getting through a school or training regime doesn’t allow you to call yourself ‘White Feather’ or ‘Perry Mason’. No one can take your accomplishment away but if you actually get off the bench – you still have to ‘earn’ it where and when it counts. We should be proud that an American woman has come this far!
Yep, and all of that applies to Male or Female. There were a lot of successful female snipers in WWII, and there are successful female snipers in other countries as well. But that is why they have standards that are created to try to develop successful snipers for combat.