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01.01.04, 22:44
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Confirmed kill, his eighth — which includes seven enemies picked off in one

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Sniper’s skills in demand in Iraq

By Matthew Cox
Times Staff writer

Sniper Sgt. Randall Davis peers down the holographic scope of the M-14
sniper rifle he used during operations in and around Samarra. Since mid
December, Davis has been credited with eight confirmed kills and
two “probables,” a count no soldier in the brigade has matched. — Alan
Lessig / Military Times staff

SAMARRA, Iraq — The sun was sinking at the desert’s edge when Sgt. Randall
Davis spotted his target, an armed Iraqi on a rooftop about 300 meters away.
“It was just getting dark. I saw a guy step in front of the light,” said the
25-year-old sniper.

Davis knew he was watching another sniper by the way the man stepped back
into the shadows and crept along the roofline to spy down on a squad from
his unit — B Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.

“Most people, when they get on a roof, will just move around and do what
they’ve got to do,” he said in a recent interview here. “But this guy was
moving slowly, trying to have smooth motions, trying to stay in the shadows.”

From his own rooftop position, Davis tracked him with his favorite weapon —
an M-14 rifle equipped with a special optic sight that has crosshairs and a
red aiming dot.

He didn’t have to wait long before the enemy sniper made his second mistake.

“He silhouetted his rifle from the waist up, trying to look over at the guys
in the courtyard,” Davis said.

His M-14 spoke once.

“I hit him in the chest. He fell back. His rifle flew out of his hands,”
Davis said. “You could see blood spatter on the wall behind where he was

Confirmed kill, his eighth — which includes seven enemies picked off in one

The deadly Dec. 18 encounter took place on the second night of Operation Ivy
Blizzard, a joint combat operation aimed at clearing guerrillas from this
city of 250,000, a nest of insurgent activity in the Sunni Triangle.

The operation is being carried out by the 5-20’s parent unit, Fort Lewis,
Wash.-based 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (SBCT), and 3rd Brigade, 4th
Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson, Colo.

Snipers had attacked the 5-20 three days before the rooftop encounter.

“We had been engaged by snipers in here before, so I was hoping it was the
same guy,” the Nashville, Tenn., native said. “It’s kind of a professional
insult to get shot at by another sniper.”

Davis pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights from the cargo pocket on his left
leg and lit up a cigarette. He seems to take his job in stride, though he
admits he’s been surprised at how busy he’s been since he arrived here two
weeks ago.

New urban-warfare threat

Just five months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Army
began teaching urban sniper techniques as part of its five-week sniper
course at Fort Benning, Ga.

Army leaders recognized the emerging threat and realized that traditional
sniper techniques of lying prone and stalking prey in the open would not be
enough in a world where terrorists hit and run from inside city buildings
and busy streets.

Army Sniper School’s urban training course includes lessons on concealment,
shooting positions and more. The Army also added more snipers to field units
as part of its ongoing transformation to a more mobile and lethal force.

The leaders of the Stryker brigade — the new wheeled combat vehicle that is
part of the transformation — say their snipers have proven ideal for
limiting collateral damage and civilian casualties in this guerrilla-style

“These guys are invaluable to our mission,” said B Company commander Capt.
Damien Mason, describing how two-man sniper teams are deployed to provide
precision fire against hit-and-run shooters or for counter-sniper work.

“[Enemy] snipers have been a problem in this town,” he said.

the enemy sniper Davis took out Dec. 18 was by no means his first kill here.

In the handful of skirmishes since mid December, Davis has been credited
with eight confirmed kills and two “probables,” a count no soldier in the
brigade has come close to matching.

Davis sees his job as vital to saving the lives of his own troops and takes
no pleasure in the killing.

“That’s one of those things you accept when you take the job,” he said.

Davis has been working in two-man sniper teams for two years. He’s a spotter
and mentor for his less-experienced sniper teammate, Spc. Chris Wilson. In
many cases, the situation dictates who takes the shot.

“The roles switch up constantly between spotter and shooter,” Davis said.

Davis, though, has done most of the shooting since his unit began operating
in Samarra on Dec. 14.

It wasn’t long after arriving that he found himself with an Iraqi in his
sights and his finger on the trigger. One night, he and Davis were taking
sporadic fire in their position when two Iraqis burst out of a mosque with
AK-47 rifles.

“I shot the trail one,” he said, describing how the individual managed to
crawl away, so he was listed as a probable kill. “He was hurt pretty bad.”

The next day, B Company walked into an ambush designed to draw them into the
city. Before the day was over, Davis, armed with an M-4 carbine and an all-
purpose optic, would be responsible for seven of the 11 enemy kills.

Most of the shots he took were while on the move at distances of 100 to 300
meters — longer than a football field, but certainly not the greatest
distance from which he has hit his human target.

on Dec. 20, he killed another sniper with one shot from an XM107 .50 caliber
sniper rifle at a distance of 750 meters.

Davis admits he never thought he’d be this busy before deploying to Iraq.

“This is the first time I have been in ever been in a combat situation,” he
said. “Really it was just like targets down range – you just hit your target
and acquire your next target. I thought I’d have a harder time shooting.
Shooting someone is pretty unnatural.”

Early interest in sniper work

Davis is described by B Company 1st Sgt. Ray Hernandez as one of the best
noncommissioned officers in the unit.

“He’s very professional — one of those NCOs where you tell him to do a job,
and he does it,” said Hernandez, who is from El Paso, Texas.

Mason, the B Company commander, agreed.

“He will make things happen,” said the 29-year-old from Kihei, Hawaii. “He
will get the mission done no matter what.”

Davis said the toughest part of the deployment is that it means a year away
from his wife and six-year-old son.

Nevertheless, serving in a war zone is the opportunity to fulfill a dream
he’s had since he was a kid.

“It’s one of those things I wanted to do since I was 12,” he said,
describing how reading about famous snipers was a favorite pastime.

Legendary snipers became his role models. Snipers such as Gunnery Sgt.
Carlos Hathcock, a Marine sniper in Vietnam with 98 confirmed kills, Sgt.
1st Class. Randy Shugart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, two Delta Force
snipers, who died in Somalia in 1993 trying to rescue a downed crew of a MH-
60 Black Hawk during the battle of Mogadishu.

“What those guys did was amazing,” he said.

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