A thick fog slowly crept across the green foliage covering Hohenfels Training Area. The sounds of birds chirping rose with the sun. One would never guess that hidden in the Bavarian mountains were snipers from 14 different countries, all competing to be the best.
7th Army Training Command and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center hosted this year’s European Best Sniper Team Competition at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Aug. 5-14, with competitors from around the European theater.
Twenty-seven sniper teams competed against each other in a grueling test of sniper skill, speed, and knowledge. Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States Army all competed to prove they were the best, Aug. 5-14.
For the first time since its inception, the competition was held at Hohenfels Training Area. It was also the first U.S. Army-hosted sniper competition to allow multinational participation since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
“It was truly an honor to be part of such a spirited competition,” said Sgt. John Visco, a U.S. Army sniper competitor assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. “Working together with our partners and allies is always a great way to build comradery, and I’m honored to have gotten the chance to be part of it.”
The European Best Sniper Team Competition provides an arena for professional development and for NATO Allies and Partners to share tactics, techniques and procedures. Being able to cross-integrate TTP’s with exercises like the European Best Sniper Team Competition promotes interoperability to the highest degree.
“It is always fun competing against Americans,” said Italian sniper Paolo Mirabella. “Events like these are a great way to learn more about each other and that will help us to work better together. The sniper community is a small one, and getting to know more people can be very useful not only in combat, but also in comradery.”
According to Mirabella, the best part of the competition was being able to work with so many other countries. Watching sniper teams handle each lane and overcome their obstacles gave him a new perspective.
“The lanes were a lot of fun,” said Sgt. Gerald Bistine, a U.S. Army sniper competitor assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. “I really enjoyed overcoming those obstacles and testing my ability to adapt to the situation I was put in.”
7th ATC modeled the competition’s lanes to each represent a specific period of time honoring events from World War I to more recent conflicts.
As an example, the Mogadishu event of the competition was inspired by Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shughart, two Delta Force snipers who provided cover fire to a crew of men who were critically injured after their helicopter went down during Operation Gothic Serpent. They provided fire from their helicopter, and eventually dismounted the aircraft so that they could get closer to help the injured crew. In the end, after depleting their ammo, they were killed by Somali gunfire but are historically credited with killing 25 Somali enemies, and wounding many more.
“These types of events are critical pieces of history that are important for us to remember,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeannoel Howell, the match director for the European Best Sniper Team Competition and Observer/Coach-Trainer at JMRC 2021. “Each lane has historical relevance that shows just how important a sniper’s job is.”
“I am honored to have been a part of this competition,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Sanchez, the Match President of the competition and senior O/C-T at JMRC. “These teams of professionals have displayed true grit, dedication and heart for their respective countries and each other.”
From day one, each competitor showed anticipation and excitement. According to Sanchez, as soon as they arrived they were given the opportunity to zero their weapons, check their optics and make sure they were ready to go for the competition.
With the details of the competition kept under close hold throughout the week, the competitors had to rely on their experience and skill as a sniper team during each event to be named this year’s winner.
“The competitors were expected to use various abilities you’d expect from a sniper, such as using maps, conducting reconnaissance, firing their weapons systems, conducting physical fitness, having knowledge on various sniper tasks, and utilizing their abilities to adapt to new situations,” said Sanchez. “Their mental and emotional toughness was put to the test each day.”
The Slovenian sniper team, named Lynx 01, finished first place for the European Best Sniper Team Competition 2021.
“I am very impressed with the level of competition I saw this year,” said a Slovenian sniper who was part of the winning team but asked not to be named. “I was able to learn a lot from the other teams here, and I hope I can take what I learned, and it will make me a better sniper.”
Team Vuruskan from Turkey took second, and team S1 from Latvia placed 3rd in this year’s competition.