CONVERSATION PIECES X: SNIPER

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By: Wayne Brown

It’s a waiting game. I am speaking of this process of negotiating with a hostage-taking suspect. In my job as a SWAT sniper, it’s a waiting game. Those of us task with this responsibility have extremely good marksmanship skills for sure but more than that, we all have patience; the patience to wait and hope for a better outcome than the one depicted within the crosshairs of this rifle scope.

When the call first comes in, there is plenty of excitement and lots of folks moving about. My gear stays at the ready and close at hand when I am called to drop my routine duties and move into the SWAT role. The adrenalin immediately starts to flow and the mind begins to race thinking of all the possibilities involved in every situation. There is always an element of danger for those involved but not so much for me. I bring the danger in many ways just as much as the shooter or hostage taker on the other end of my rifle. I bring the danger element to his life and potentially some element of it to those whom he holds hostage. Bullets do not discriminate between guilt and innocence. On that basis, what I do has to be right, first time, every time.

Once the team arrives at the site, we cover the details for updates. I study the overhead views in black and white photos and pick out potential shooting positions that will give me the best advantage for a clean shot should one be required. Once those locations are identified, I head out with my spotter in trail to visit each one and size up the situation. We are on the move, staying out of sight but hurrying to our destination to assess its value in the shot. We choose multiple sites from multiple angles because the most obvious one normally does not work. We have to move quickly and find the correct one in order to capitalize on any opportunity it might offer should the negotiations begin to fail.

When we finally locate the best position, the spotter goes to work assessing the distance, offsets, windage, etc. to assist me in calculating the shot on the target. At some point, a query comes over my radio headset as to the status of the target. If our intended target is within view and aligned in my sights, I quickly reply with a single code word that tells other members of the team that we are set and ready to take the target out once the signal is given. This status check goes on at intervals in order to reconfirm the status and allow the team to weigh its options. If there are complications such as a hostage close at hand with the target, I turn in a negative status. In this business, we don’t take innocent lives to stop criminals if we can avoid it.

Where does the desire and motivation come from in a man who has such a task as mine? You might think that I never asked myself that question but I have and I do over and over. I have answered it over and over to myself as well. There is no desire or motivation in terms of wanting to kill another human being. I never look at it in that way. My job is to save lives…the lives of innocent victims and those endangered by a person committing a wrongful act. My job is one of many in a level of responses to the actions of this person. When I go to work one of two things has occurred, either the negotiations have broken down or the lives of the hostages are determined to be in grave danger. At that point, it is not a function of desire or motivation but one of duty and a duty that I take very seriously.

Once I enter the shooting position, I shut out as much of the world as I possibly can. It becomes a game of control, patience, and discipline. I consciously begin to control my breathing rate and calm myself as much as possible. I look for a comfortable shooting situation as the subject may be in my sights for a long period before any decision is made that will involve me. I have to fight the fatigue of waiting, of holding the weapon steady on the target and maintaining my absolute concentration on the shot. If the time comes at which I must carry out my duty, I will likely get only one opportunity to complete the task successfully and with as much humane treatment as I can show under the conditions.

I have worked at this shooting game a long time and honed my skills in the process. I have long since mastered the technicalities of the process…those dealing with the actual mechanics of the weapon and the shot. One never totally masters the emotional aspects of it. Taking a human life at one’s option is a power which can be consuming and must be managed with respect. If I had my choices, I would choose to simply line up the shot and make it as quickly as possible before the emotional aspects became a factor. In reality, it does not work that way. In a strange sort of way, the time that I spend with the target in my crosshairs is a timeframe in which I get to know more and more about the person the longer I must hold the target. I notice that he is left-handed by the way he holds his weapon. He wears a watch on his right arm and carries his wallet on the same side. He likes blue jeans and tennis shoes. He keeps his hair cut neatly. In many ways, he is not unlike me…just a regular guy. These are thoughts that register and one acknowledges but it cannot deter me from my duty or else others may die.

Most people understand that wild animals are not at their most reasonable self if they are cornered and scared. This element comes through even in this situation which is populated with people who have the ability to reason and not act on instinct like animals do. Still, when cornered, the human mind seems to turn more toward instinct than logic in its response to the situation. Given that fact, people elect to do some things than normal logic would advise against. That is what makes them so unpredictable, so dangerous. They are trapped, cornered and have no way out. Instincts take over. Desperation runs high and no one can predict how things will play out. The talking process attempts to bring this person back from that abyss; to reinstall the logic file into their brain which allows them to understand that the time has come to stop what they are doing and simply give up. That discussion is in the best interest of everyone involved including the target. But with desperation running high and nerves on edge, the talks often breakdown and do so rather rapidly. It is at that point that decisions must be made as to whether my services are required. Once that decision is made, things move with blinding speed for the window to carry out the action may close at any second and all opportunity to save the hostages will be gone. I stay at the ready knowing this is the case.

On this day, the talking works and the suspect calms downs and listens to reason. I watch it all play out through my scope confirming over my radio that the target has indeed thrown his gun away and is lying flat on the floor with his hands behind his back. I see other members of the SWAT enter the premises from various angles and take control of the target. My work here is done and I nod to my spotter to move out.

Back at the rally point, the target had been taken into custody. He sits in the back of a police cruiser handcuffed to a restraining rail. The hostages are all safe with their loved ones now and things are beginning to wind down back toward normal. I slowly walk over and glance into the vehicle. The target looks up and our eyes meet. He has no idea who I am…just another cop. He has no that I have held his life in my hands for the past few hours. He has no idea and I say nothing. He’s just a regular looking guy….much like me.

 

© Copyright WBrown2011. All Rights Reserved.

 

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Comments 28 comments

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Wayne, what an amazing story. I truly admire the men and women who volunteer for SWAT knowing what they may be called upon to do. They are real heroes in my opinion. Your story covered a part of this job that is seldom considered, the mental side. In your story, the bad guy probably never knew or will know how close he came to meeting his maker.

Thanks for another really great hub my friend.


blake4d profile image

blake4d 5 years ago from Now Rising Out of Phoenix Arizona Earthlings

I always kinda wanted to be a sniper or some kind of special weapons expert. If I hadnt been able to type or use my brain as well, I would love to shoot and really practice it a bit. But snipers are kind of good for killing someone - but may not make for good drinking budies contest or whatever. Why doesn't anybody wanna talk to me about it. Am I invisible?

If I am, I probably should find out why.


CYBERSUPE 5 years ago

Wayne, I am totally impressed and admire you for your job as a SWAT team member.

God Bless and Protect You!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Unrelentingly, fearless determination in action = a sniper. But I guess a normal person has to snap before he can become a sniper....

Great write, Wayne – thought-provoking. Voted UP and awesome.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Old Poolman...Thank you! By including it in my "Conversation Series" I wanted to make it a "mental thing". We often wonder what is in the head of a person charged with this responsibility...I attempted to put myself there and relate it...hopefully I got it partially right. WB

@blake4d...I wouldn't recommend approaching them in a cop bar! LOL! Maybe you just need to go ahead and develop the skillset and let them find you???? WB

@CYBERSUPE...It's all part of my vast imagination! LOL! WB

@MartieCoetser...Thank you. Some men kill in wars instinctively but snipers develop the ability to do it deliberately and accurately. One must have their mind right or things could get real twisted. WB


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

....well it's that time again for the amazing Mister Brown - a famous top ten from the epi-man - Top ten hub attributes of Wayne Brown:

10. He's so darn prolific

9. He's versatile - he's a lover and a fighter

one hub is about guns then another is about the ladies - wow!

8. Randolph Sott

7. or Joel McCrea?

6. Take your pick - he's a bit of both

5. Makes Tom Cruise in Top Gun look like a little boy

who is afraid of flying.

4. did I mention - prolific? Well with the quantity there's always quality!

3. He has always supported me and when I tell people that I write at the hub they always ask me the same thing:

2. ...... Do you know Wayne Brown?

1. ...which means to be in his company is a prestigious honor indeed!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Epiggramman...Well Colin, you made my day. I am flying off to Colorado for the weekend to celebrate my granddaughter's 4th birthday. Now I'll walk into the airport like Loretta Young entering the room on her television show of old....flourishing my fame! LOL! Wow! I didn't know that many folks knew me here on the Hub! Thanks so much. WB


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

..well actually they do Wayne ......and best wishes for your granddaughter's birthday (that's a great age to be) and have a safe and happy trip!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Chillingly told and I suspect there's a experience there we know nothing about. Just injuring another human being, even in fully justified self-defense, can take its toll in regrets.

Well done Wayne!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@epigramman...Let's make sure I don't get Charlie Sheenish! LOL! WB

@WillStarr...My "Conversation Pieces" series tend to run on the mental side...sometimes insanity! You a good point. That is the reason so many people are killed with their own gun...they don't give any consideration to killing until the time is upon them and they freeze. It's mental thing. Thanks Will. WB


Fay Paxton 5 years ago

Wayne this was one of the most intriguing stories I've ever read. I've often wondered what thoughts enter the mind of a sniper, so you have more than satisfied my curiosity. You are a superb writer!

voted up and awesome.


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Brilliant, Wayne, this concept from the hired gun, so to speak. I wonder why a profiling TV show hasn't thought of something so innovatingly interesting? After all, the minds, backgrounds and experiences of those who chose to provide these difficult, disciplined, harrowing duties would make for fascinating programming. Beautifully written, as is everything you write, without overdone dramatics that would reduce the impact that this piece owns of it's own volition. Perfect!


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

Wow! Like your other fans have expressed -- a unique snapshot into the minds of those that protect us. I love the observations - left handed, wallet, jeans, etc. The Sniper's job is as much about observation and patience as it is about performing the actual "duty" of taking another's life. When the situation resolves positively, the Sniper is not actually needed. When I read your Conversation Pieces I try to put myself in the mind of the person. I am observant, but I am impatient. Guess I better keep my day job!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Long ago, Wayne, I saw the film, "Day of the Jackal," with James Fox a British actor. It was the story of a famous sniper during World War II. It was remade as "The Jackal" with Bruce Willis afterward.

Your chillingly real hub reminded me of the story of that sniper, his preparations and his mental processes. Excellently written, my friend. :)


Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

Wayne, this was absolutely breathtaking. Of course, not knowing me, you couldn't possibly know that much of what you wrote in this hub answered questions I've had for years about individuals who do a job where it might be necessary to take a human life. Such respect for you, sir. Well done.


Kindacrazy profile image

Kindacrazy 5 years ago from Tennessee

Wayne, You are awe inspiring and a sharp shooting master. I LOVED this. So intriguing and exciting and what a rush!! I WAS there!! You da Man, Wayne.

Hope you have a great time with your granddaughter. And, oh yeah, remind me NOT to pi@@ you off.


caltex profile image

caltex 5 years ago

I can't believe this was just your imagination. Written with great detail like it was your actual experience. Simply amazing, sir!


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Wayne old son, an epic tale showing why the military sniper with body count doesn't often make the transition to swat. We went for body count and positive target ID and the spotter confirming ID it was recoil time. Collateral wasn't an issue.

Great article, voted up, 50


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Fay Paxton...Well thank you so much. I have found it challenging to attempt to write from the perspective of others...I hope I got this one right. WB

@Amy Becherer....It sure sounds like it would provide an interesting perspective for the viewer...maybe they'll call me! LOL! WB

@Truckstop Sally...Sometimes when we view these people from a mental perspective they are not the heartless beast we imagine. WB

I do remember parts of that movie but it has been a while and I need to see it again I think. Thanks much for the good comment. WB

@Motown2Chitown...Thank you so much...glad I could help with understanding. WB

@Kindacrazy...Thank you so much for such a fine comment! WB


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Great piece of writing. I think you did an amazing job of getting into the head of a sniper. Voted up and awesome.


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 5 years ago

Wayne I've often wondered about the sniper and how he can bury his emotions at the time of a crisis and keep it all together. To know that you are going to be the trigger man and that you hold a persons life in delicate balance between your cross hairs is astounding. One must have nerves of steel and a mindset of oneness with his duty.I know I couldn't and wouldn't function well on that job, the main reason is premeditation.

To know that I have to THINK a lot about the subject and sit and wait for that precise right moment to kill is nerve racking. That's why I was not a good hunter, stalking prey and waiting to kill it was to cold blooded for me. However on the same breath, in war and on the fly to do or die, I would not hesitate to kill, as I know I am facing an enemy who will shoot back and try to kill me.

Well written piece Wayne, much enjoyed your going into the mind of The Sniper, you are excellent at writing a very descriptive imagery of their job and emotions.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@caltex...It was just my imagination, running away with me; it was just my imagination running away. LOL! Thanks much! WB

@50 Caliber...Thanks much 50, glad it worked for you! WB


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Wrinkles in a forehead can be shaped by squinting with one eye closed and one eye grabbing all it can.


Jangaplanet profile image

Jangaplanet 5 years ago

Very interesting Wayne Brown. So well written . Thanks.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Micky Dee...How true what you say can be. Some men spent many agonizing hours waiting for the target to enter the field of vision. Thanks Micky. WB

@Jangaplanet...Thank you, sir! I appreciate the good words and I am so pleased that you enjoyed the read. WB


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@breakfastpop....Thank you, glad you liked it. WB

@saddlerider1...Thanks Ken. I thought the metal side would be more intriguing than the shot...it seems that I was right! WB


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Arresting from the very first sentence. In just moments, our worlds can be turned upside down. Do we recognize those miracles that save us from an abyss? Very well written in a matter-of-fact tone that perfectly describe those moments.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Genna East...Thanks so very much. We are blessed to have people who have such talents on the side of law and order in our world. Taking down another person would be a sobering thought...it takes the right person to handle it. WB

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