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, www.americansniper.org.
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.