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Special Forces team wins International Sniper Competition

In this 2010 file photo, Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Bowes uses the knees of his partner, Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Harris, to brace his rifle during a sniper competition.

MIKE HASKEY/COLUMBUS, GA. LEDGER-ENQUIRER

By BEN WRIGHT | Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (MCT) | Published: October 25, 2014

GEORGIA — After a week of competition, a team from the 1st Special Forces Group was named the winner of the 14th annual International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Sgt. 1st Class Travis Croy and Staff Sgt. Rudolph Gonsior of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state topped the field of 36 two-man teams from around the world to win the competition that started Monday.

Sgt. 1st Class Terry Grower and Sgt. 1st Class Neil Hudspeth of the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Ky., placed second and the team of Master Sgt. Sean Wiseman and Staff Sgt. Stephen McAuley representing U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., rounded out the top three.

The competition was on firing ranges across Fort Benning. The shooters were tested for physical fitness and their mastery of sniper skills. They included target detection, stalking, land navigation and marksmanship.

After the 2 p.m. ceremony, a monument commemorating snipers lost in the line of duty was dedicated on the Memorial Walk of Honor at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center.

The competitors in the sniper event weren't available for comment.

During the competition, the last 48 hours were the most challenging for the teams because it allowed no time for sleep, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Fox, a team sergeant for the U.S. Army Sniper Force.

"They were up the entire time," Fox said. "Every event rolled into another event, 48 hours of competition from Wednesday to Thursday. In the end, the Special Forces group took it."

The competition included teams from the Army, Army Reserve, National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, Homeland Security, the Pentagon Emergency Response Teams and the Department of Justice. International teams came from the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany. From Georgia, the Covington Police Department also competed.

The event started Monday with ammo drills that focused on the fundamentals of marksmanship, speed and precision.

"Over the course of the week, they went through stress event after stress event," Fox said. "On top of the events themselves, we kept them in the dark. We don't let them know where they stand at any time."

Not knowing whether you are doing well or not plays on your mind during the competition, Fox said. "Over time, that starts to build on you," he said.

The winning team earned up to 900 points in the competition. Each of the nine events was based on a 100-point system.

All teams took something from the event to their respective organizations.

"When you bring that many different groups of people together, it's that vast knowledge exchange," Fox said. "More than the competition, soldiers and lawmen get to work with people they otherwise wouldn't get to work with."

The annual competition wouldn't have been possible without help from 14 instructors who graduated a sniper class before the weeklong event. They had five days to get all the exercises ready and run the competition, Fox said.

Two hours after the winning team was announced, more than 100 people gathered on the Memorial Walk of Honor to remember fallen snipers.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Lewis Worrell, a former instructor and sniper, said snipers stay in the shadows and do their jobs without anyone knowing they are there.

"If they do their jobs properly, that is the way it is," Worrell said. "They protect all of our brother soldiers from afar and all of our infantry men know that. When there is a sniper operating in the area, a friendly sniper, they've got somebody watching over them."

Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Shalala, a guest speaker at the event who has nearly three decades in the Army, described a sniper as a soldier who would place the needs of another person ahead of their own. The monument shows a sniper aiming his rifle while hidden in tall bushes covering his body.

"We honor that gift of a life with words," said Shalala, who competed in the 2010 Sniper Competition. "Words will have to suffice. To give meaning to those words we have to honor our fallen brothers with words."

(c)2014 the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.)

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