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Advice for Sniper Supervisors

Advice for Sniper Supervisors

Derrick D. Bartlett

I am not a supervisor, and I don’t pretend to be able to tell you how to supervise your sniper team. However, I have the advantage of having seen sniper teams all over the country. I have had a close look at good programs and bad programs. As a result, I can tell you, with confidence, how a successful sniper team should be supervised and why. The choice to follow my advice is yours.

I believe no one is born knowing how to supervise a sniper team. Earning stripes, bars or becoming a team leader doesn’t automatically equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to be an effective sniper supervisor. A smart supervisor realizes this and takes steps to correct it. Therefore, my first recommendation would be, every person who is tasked with the responsibility of supervising a sniper team should attend a sniper school. The intent is not to make you into a sniper. Learning to see the world with “sniper’s eyes” will give you a unique perspective. It will help you understand how snipers are trained to think, move and act. It will give you an appreciation for their capabilities and limitations. It will also give you invaluable, hands-on experience with the tools of the trade. Nothing will give you the same respect for snipers as eating dirt with them.

There are also classes being offered in different places geared specifically for sniper team leaders. Attend them. These classes will help you in areas like designing training programs, training documentation, purchasing, and operational command issues. More specialized information from additional sources will only help you be a better supervisor.

If your team doesn’t already have them, write up a complete SOP for the sniper team. The policy should cover aspects like the team’s mission, selection of personnel, command structure, training and qualifications, operational directives, and deadly force policy. Care must be taken to avoid making the policy too detailed or restrictive. It should act as a framework for the program, without being too rigid. If you are unsure how to accomplish this, don’t be afraid to consult agencies that have already written policies, or contact the American Sniper Association,

Take the time to select good personnel. Not every SWAT officer is cut out for the job of a sniper, so don’t settle for putting just anyone in the position. Look at the desirable criteria and use a uniform selection process to choose the best candidates.

Buy the team good equipment. (This will be a recurring theme, so get used to hearing it.) As the supervisor, you represent the liaison between your snipers and the upper administration. When they come to you asking for equipment, you have to be the salesman who pitches their requests to the bean counters. You will have to be able to justify purchases that run counter to the lowest bidder practices agencies usually follow. It will fall on your shoulders to make them understand the differences between match grade ammunition and regular hunting ammo, and why the agency has to spend more money to buy the right stuff. Of course, you will be hard-pressed to make the necessary sales pitch if you don’t have the facts. So, your responsibility includes doing homework and research. You have to learn what equipment is available, what it costs, and where it can be purchased.

  • Photo_00002_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Good article. Management and administration are not everything. What really gets the job done is caring and compitant LEADERSHIP ! LTC Tom Nugent

  • Me_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Good article. Great intro for a sniper leader course.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    yep, should be

  • Cot_max50


    about 5 years ago


    great article! its what PL should be all about.

  • 04-10-08_1552_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I agree with PSD_Team_Leader. We need more articles like this on Policelink. Great job, keep it commng Derrick.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    Excellent this is what Id like to see more of on policelink

  • Me_nam_max50


    about 5 years ago


    well said...solid advice

  • Cope_ad_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Thanks Derrick, Good info.

  • 3308bc52fdd262b1cad4a616aa599cb8-big_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Great information. Thanks.

  • 011_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Great article. I only wish it was out 30 year's ago and a lot of your statements could have been brought to the powers to be for concideration as policy for my sniper unit. As it was I had to go with gut instinct and training that I got in the Marine Corp's and try and make my supervisor understand why we busted a cap and the reason behind it. I suppose I was lucky as I was the Sgt. in charge of the 6 man sniper unit and was the top sniper. Almost 100% of any shot's that had to be made fell on my shoulder's over a career on the team that lasted almost 20 year's.
    Semper Fi!
    Bill Hurley Sr.
    Det. Sgt. Retired

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    When I was on the team, I was fortunate enough to have a great team leader and also a couple of great snipers on the team. When a sniper position opened up on the team, I was honored when I was asked to become one. I had a great partner and he took his job as a sniper very seriously. I learned alot from my team leader and my sniper partner. Snipers do have their work cut out for them. Kudos .....great article.

  • Police_pic_max50


    over 5 years ago


    This type of Tactical Leader requirements should be be mandatory for any type of Squad Commander. To effectively command any unit, you should have an understanding of how they operate, what their needs are and how to relate that to the powers that be. Being in the trenches with the unit also garners the respect of the men. Lastly exploit the talents of the men on your unit to effectively operate. Snipers are the Bastard Children of Swat, but they are some of the most dedicated, well trained members of the SWAT Team. My humble 2 cents. Nice Article

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