In 2006, a group of U.S. Army Rangers pursued a high-value target in eastern Iraq. This Ranger tells the story of how the quick action of one of his team’s snipers saved his life and others that day. He says he and his wife are grateful to Army snipers.
Video by Army Staff Sgt. Edwin Pierce, DOD
I’m Brett William Johnson, the command sergeant major for the 3rd Ranger Battalion, I’ve been here for 19 years. So, probably the most significant time I’ve had in an interaction with one of our snipers, that would be worthy enough to tell the story, there’s been a bunch, but this one’s probably the most significant. It was 2006, I was a staff sergeant in the 1st Ranger Battalion, and we were going after a high-value target in eastern Iraq. As we showed up to the target, we came in and started walking in, and one of the other squad leaders said, “Hey I can see the guys., They’re all walking around, and they have guns.” So as we moved up to the target, They – one of the sentries – identified the other squad leader on the target on the eastern side of the objective and started to engage at us. As our assault force started to engage the enemy, we rapidly moved up my squad, and right as we were about to break the corner of the building, a guy unbeknownst to us was literally coming around the corner with an AK-47, would have taken out me, both of my team leaders at the time. Our sniper was postured in a perfect position. Didn’t have enough time to tell us it was happening, ’cause it, you know, things happen so fast in a firefight. As we broke the corner, he took the most perfect well-aimed shot and put him down, as we broke the corner as we can continue to and go and engage the rest of the to the guys. Didn’t realize it was him at the time, thought it was somebody else next to us that got him. The good part is that the team did a phenomenal job as we flowed through and eliminated the rest of the threat and actually ended up getting the – a pretty big-time guy in eastern Iraq. As we as we finished up the objective it was it was pretty quick probably from time when we hit on the ground till it was all over, it was probably a 10-minute segment, I mean it was, it was that quick, but from our snipers – you know as we as we plan the target as he was sitting out and said, “Hey, I think this is gonna be the best position for me to observe the target and report anything that’s going on or any movement.” He couldn’t see the movement of the guys as we were moving up just from where he was at on that side from where the guys came out of the building, but as soon as that guy made a decision to break the corner where we were moving up, it was probably literally five feet from us when he took the shot and made the engagement on that guy. Had he not been there, you know, that guy would definitely would’ve had the drop on us and definitely, you know, shot one of us. We were actually in a – in a wedge moving up as the other assault team on the eastern side was in a wedge moving up, so we were coming in an L-shape to isolate the objective, so we Could – and then, you know, flow in. It just so happened that the enemy came out and started moving around with guns, ’cause the sun was, you know, took us so long to get there, the sun was coming up. So it was in that, you know, period of darkness where he, you kind of still gotta wear your nods, but, you know, I could probably take him off and see as well, and so we had the advantage for Sure. Still, and as we were moving up in the wedge and we were closing down our wedge to break that corner to go into The – to buttonhook around the house and go into the courtyard, that’s when the shot broke out. It was silent so, you know, you knew you took a shot, but you didn’t know where until we turned the corner and you saw the guy laying there with the AK and then then you figure out that, “Hey, that was that was our sniper that took that shot.” You know, the training that they do up until that point allows them to take a critical shot at within the feet of us as we broke that corner and the trust that we had between our sniper was pretty incredible for him to take that shot, you know, and an error, a miss of one foot, you know, to the right; we could have could have hit one of us and and he, you know, he did a phenomenal job that day. The year was 2006 when all this went happened, and things were pretty dynamic in Iraq in 2006, seven, eight, nine, ten. Things like that happened on a nightly basis over there. You tell them thanks, give them a little fist bump and hey, but you gotta concentrate on the next target, you know, that was last night, you know, then next nights a new target, so you got to get back out there and get your game face on cause every night it’s different. I don’t know that if I have a tally in my head of how many times they’ve saved my life but it’s- I’m sure my wife is pretty thankful for them as well. So, the significance of a sniper at the command perspective is just another tool in our kit bag, right. We have multiple assets within our organization, and you know, when a sniper is used properly, you can get some phenomenal information about the target that you’re looking at and how they they support a maneuver element as they’re moving up and then take those critical shots within feet, like I just explained, that’ll save lives. So that their critical role in the battlefield to observe and report and then take the most critical shot when needed is a skill that can’t perish, right, and it goes back to rehearsals, and planning, and continue to refine their skills. They’re some of the most patient people I’ve ever met in my life. I’m not a very patient person, so I could have never been a very good sniper, but their ability to to see the battlefield, to see what’s next, to observe report and then to take that critical shot, it’s pretty impressive, and I would encourage anybody that has those characteristics and traits and thinks they can do that to come and join the U.S. Army, particularly the Ranger regiment, and become a sniper.