US Army Sniper School Graduates First Woman

The Air Force has had female snipers for a number of years. But the Army Sniper School, regarded as one of the “most grueling, individually focused courses” in the Army, has not. The Sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia is seven weeks of intense work. The woman, who was not identified, is an Infantry soldier in the Montana Army National Guard. She earned a slot at the Sniper school due to her “superior performance” and marksmanship during Infantry training. She graduated on Friday.

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The Army Sniper course is only open to “enlisted soldiers in infantry, cavalry or Special Forces roles.” She enlisted in the Montana National Guard in 2020, and began the 7 week course in September of 2021, right out of infantry training.

Their endorsement was based on her superior performance, including qualifying as an expert shooter, during that initial schooling that combines basic training with advanced instruction in infantry skills.

“We’re all incredibly proud of her,” said Capt. Joshua O’Neill, her OSUT company commander. “There wasn’t a doubt in our minds that she would succeed.”

She arrived prepared and “met every standard required to graduate” the course, said Capt. David Wright, battalion commander at the U.S. Army Sniper School.

The intensive program trains and tests students on fieldcraft, camouflage techniques, marksmanship, concealed movement, target detection, intelligence preparation and other tactics and techniques necessary to deliver long-range precision fire and collect battlefield information, according to a course description on the Fort Benning website.

“We wish her luck as she heads back to her unit as a U.S. Army Sniper Course qualified sniper,” Wright said.

A student at the Fort Benning Sniper school does the “sniper crawl” during training in 2018. (US Army photo from a video by Sgt. Nathaniel Duane Phillips)

Women of excellent Marksmanship

Lyudmila Pavlichenko (1916-1974) was a Soviet Sniper who had 309 confirmed kills during WWII. There were thousands of Soviet female snipers, but her confirmed kills were higher than any other. the Nazis called her “Lady Death.”

Lyudmila Pavlichenko Screenshot

The first US female sniper was Jennifer Weitekamp, an Air National Guard member who graduated in 2001 from the Counter Sniper School at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Arkansas. It was said that she could “put a bullet through an enemy’s head from nearly a mile away.” By 2012, after the course was renamed the Close Precision Engagement Course and relocated to Fort Bliss, 9 women had graduated.

When we wrote about the ladies who competed in that Surviving Mann competition, you might have noted their skills were on a high level. Women can shoot and shoot well. Learning how to crawl around on the ground silently in a ghilley suit to stalk their prey takes another level entirely. Congratulations to that Montana Army National Guard lady!


Featured screenshot: Army/K. Kassens

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