U.S. Army Photo by Capt. Justin Wright
Snipers are masters of disguise who are able to hide in plain sight, providing overwatch, scouting enemy positions, and, when necessary, taking out threats.
"No one knows you’re there. I’m here. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day," First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a Texas native and experienced US Army sniper, said during a recent interview.
"We are capable of hurting you in many ways … We’re not going to tell you how we’re coming. But, we’re coming for you."
Business Insider asked a handful of trained Army snipers, elite sharpshooters who have served across multiple combat deployments in multiple countries, how they disappear in any and all environments. Here’s what they had to say.
Concealment is about putting anything you can between yourself and the watchful eyes of the enemy.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez
"A sniper is not limited to any one method," Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of service, explained. "We are extremely free. You are limited only by however you limit yourself."
Snipers use a mixture of natural and artificial materials to achieve concealment and camouflage to avoid enemy detection, as the sniper must remain unseen by the enemy to collect intelligence or take a shot if needed. The aim is to effectively blend into the negative space, areas the eye naturally overlooks.
Concealing oneself from an adversary’s gaze is about putting "anything you can between you and whatever might be observing you," Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, told BI, explaining that this could be natural vegetation, face paints, false screens, a sniper’s ghillie suits, or the hides they construct.
A ghillie suit is designed with loose strips designed to resemble natural backgrounds like twigs or long grasses, and can make snipers nearly undetectable by visual. Ghillie suits typically do not shield the wearer from detection via thermal imaging, a technology that advanced militaries are likely to use; however, the Army is developing an improved ghillie suit which is expected to offer enhanced protection.
With the tools they bring with them and materials found in the field, snipers can break up and distort their outline, making them significantly harder to spot.
In many ways, it’s about knowing your environment.
Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye
"The best tool snipers can use to disguise and conceal themselves from the enemy is a solid understanding of their surroundings," Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander, told BI.
Snipers need to know the lay of the land, they need to plan their route, and they need to take advantage of whatever nature gives.
"I want to look at the terrain. What can I put between myself and the target," Sipes, who runs the marksmanship training company alongside Elgort, said." It’s not just about the face paint or what I attach to my body, it’s the natural environment around me that I can utilize to keep them from seeing me."
For example, the winners of the International Sniper Competition, two non-commissioned officers from the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, hid themselves from view with nothing more than a ghillie suit hood and various materials they found in the field.
In particular, they focused on hiding their face.
"Just by being able to disfigure and break up the outline of their face — you know, a human face stands out very vividly in a woodland area — by concealing the outline of their face, they were able to win," Elgort explained. "It really comes down to an understanding of that and knowing what you’re presenting and adjusting accordingly."
There are a lot of small things that if overlooked could be fatal.
Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer
Snipers have to manage their tracks, scent, shadow, glare and countless other things to remain hidden from enemies. "There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them," Sipes explained.
Here’s just a few of the many things snipers have to think about.
"If you are facing east in the morning, the sun is going to be coming at you, so you need to do something with your scope to prevent glare," Elgort told BI. To combat this problem, snipers build cat eyes.
"We use natural vegetation, we use wraps, netting, whatever to block the optics from any observation but allow us to see through it," Sipes said, noting that other considerations include whether or not he is silhouetting himself against something else. A shadow could give away his position, exposing him to the enemy.
As for scents, he said that snipers avoid scented soaps, smoking, any type of cologne, deodorant, etc.
In colder climates, a sniper can eat snow to hide their breath, but it only works for a short time. "You would have to continuously eat snow, and then you have to pee," Smith said, bringing up another potential consideration.
Snipers also have to think about bodily excretions. Sometimes when nature calls, a sniper will use bags with sponges to soak up their business. They can also bury it in the earth. Other times, they just have to hold it.
- 11 of the world’s most effective camouflage patterns at hiding combat troops and vehicles
- ‘America’s first millennial submarine’ is also its deadliest hunter-killer ever — step inside the USS South Dakota
- The US Navy is honoring a barrier-bursting aviation pioneer with the 1st ever all-female flyover
Source: Business Insider