After B.R.A.S.S. – The Next Steps
I talked about the basics of shooting – B.R.A.S.S. (Breathe, Relax, Aim, Slack, Squeeze), and how they related to life and success in my last post. Now it’s time to move on from the basics to some of the graduate lessons of Sniper techniques and experiences, and how these directly apply to your success in life, relationships and business.
If you’ve seen movies about snipers, read books, etc., you may already have a pre-conceived notion about snipers. They’re not just the Hollywood version of good rifle marksmen. In fact, the most successful snipers are “master chess players” (both in big-focus strategy, and in immediate-focus tactics). This isn’t by chance…
The Marine Corps has had sniper schools, off and on, since the day of our founding, November 10th, 1775, when a “corps of Marines” was established. It was founded to, among other missions, provide sharpshooters to climb up in a ship’s riggings, and shoot down on the enemy when ships were being boarded during battles at sea.
In early 1973, with the Vietnam War coming to a close, Marine sniper (or Scout Sniper) schools were not as formalized as they are now – not counting the school in Quantico established by GySgt. Carlos Hathcock, a legendary Marine sniper. I wasn’t fortunate enough to attend that school, but I went through some great training with 1st Marine Division in Camp Pendleton. Even though the curriculum was not like today’s, the lessons taught were the same.
Knowledge: Knowledge of your equipment and weapon(s) – their limitations and capabilities. Knowledge of yourself – your stamina, willpower, abilities. Knowledge of the mission – what you are expected to or intend to achieve. Knowledge of the conditions – terrain, weather, friendly and/or enemy units, and anything else that can help or hinder your mission. Knowledge of human reactions – what will the enemy be doing to counter you, what is their most likely reaction if you are successful in taking the shot, are there habits or actions you can take advantage of, etc. Knowledge of the strategy behind your assignment, and the tactics you intend to employ to achieve the assignment. We spent a good part of the entire school going over these – learning how to learn, and really getting to know your weapons, capabilities, planning, etc. If you couldn’t get this, you didn’t stay in the school very long – this is critical.
It sounds like a lot, but if you really want to achieve a goal, the best way to start is to know everything you can about that goal. Take whatever time that is available, and study all the information you can during that time. Are you going to a job interview? Have you studied the company, the executives, their stated company mission and goals, tried to find out who will be doing the interviews and studied their backgrounds? What is the dress code for their company?
What do you want to do? Be successful in business, write a book, have a successful long-term relationship, build a log cabin in the Wyoming wilderness? Take time to get to know everything you can about a person, your goal, how to build a cabin, how to not only write, but to market your book.
Mission Focus: Part of this can be taught, but part of it may be inherent in the really great snipers. How intently do you focus on your goals? When we were given a mission or assignment, they actually put us into isolation so we were not distracted from the mission. After a while, that became such an ingrained habit that we could “self-isolate”, even in the middle of a crowded chow hall… All we would think about, talk about, or work on was the assignment. This seems a bit OCD for a lot of folks, and you don’t have to take it to that extent in normal circumstances – just remember that those missions could be life-threatening if we weren’t successful.
I know that in my writing, and many other writers agree with this, that when I’m not doing something (and even when I am doing something sometimes), I’m thinking about the book I’m writing, the story – and can’t wait to get back to my writing. Steven Pressfield nails this in his books Turning Pro and The War of Art. This can carry through to whatever your goals are.
Patience: Ok, now here’s where it starts getting real… Have you ever heard of a “stalk”? No, I don’t mean of celery. It is the movement of a sniper from a point of insertion (where they enter the area) to a place where they can successfully take the shot. It can take a couple of hours to several days to make that move into a dangerous target area, and get set up. In the modern school, there are a set number of stalks and shots, but in the less formal era when I received my training, there were some minor stalks, but one big “pass or fail” stalk at the end.
The final stalk was a three day exercise. You were “inserted”, and then had to move (a long way) into the target area to within 200 yards of a steel target, take a shot at (hit) the target, move back out to a second firing position, and take a shot (hit) the target a second time – all within three days (72 hours) from your insertion. Sounds easy, right? Well, you had observers with binoculars trying to find you, jeep patrols running around looking for you, occasional foot patrols looking for you, and the terrain did not have a lot of cover (places to hide). Besides that, they knew you were coming, and from long experience, about where you would have to move and set up to get a successful shot.
If you stood up, moved quickly, ate, went to the bathroom, or even scratched the bugs and ants all over you, you could give yourself away – and it was over. I only beat them because I didn’t set up where they expected at 200 yards. I was only 75 yards from the target when I fired the first time, and about 125 yards the second time. I stayed well within their “home” circle…
If your goal is worth it, take your time, be patient, and go for the long win, not the quick “victory”.
Perseverance: Finally, perseverance. Despite the obstacles (terrain, weather, bugs, hunger, enemy patrols, lack of sleep, soiled trousers, heat/cold, bright sun or darkness, or anything else), a successful sniper will just continue on and not be distracted from his objective. No matter what. I didn’t enjoy the physical aspects of the final stalk, but I sure did enjoy watching their faces when I took those shots…and remained undetected.
Decide what you want, use B.R.A.S.S. to set up the basics, then gain as much knowledge about it as you can, decide your course of action and define what you want to achieve (mission). Focus intently on your goal, be patient, and don’t ever give up. Good hunting!
Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo