Gazing through the telescopic sight of his M24 rifle, Staff Sgt Jim Gilliland, leader of Shadow sniper team, fixed his eye on the Iraqi insurgent who had just killed an American soldier.1,250 meters, 1,375 yards, .78 miles. That's a hell of a shot. Like he said, one in a million. Staff Sgt Gilliland estimates he has killed between 55 and 65 in less than 5 months in Ramadi. His team has about 200 kills. Their targets are individuals or, more often, groups of terrorists planting IED's - the roadside and marketplace bombs that have killed some 20,000 Iraqis and some 2000 coalition fighters. This duty carries some baggage. Lt Col Robert Roggeman, the Task Force 2/69 commander:
His quarry stood nonchalantly in the fourth-floor bay window of a hospital in battle-torn Ramadi, still clasping a long-barrelled Kalashnikov. Instinctively allowing for wind speed and bullet drop, Shadow's commander aimed 12 feet high.
A single shot hit the Iraqi in the chest and killed him instantly. It had been fired from a range of 1,250 metres, well beyond the capacity of the powerful Leupold sight, accurate to 1,000 metres.
"I believe it is the longest confirmed kill in Iraq with a 7.62mm rifle," said Staff Sgt Gilliland, 28, who hunted squirrels in Double Springs, Alabama from the age of five before progressing to deer - and then people.
"He was visible only from the waist up. It was a one in a million shot. I could probably shoot a whole box of ammunition and never hit him again."
Later that day, Staff Sgt Gilliland found out that the dead soldier was Staff Sgt Jason Benford, 30, a good friend.
"It's a very God-like role. They have the power of life and death that, if not held in check, can run out of control. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.Staff Sgt Gilliland:
"Every shot has to be measured against the Rules of Engagement [ROE], positive identification and proportionality."
"If you have no respect for what you do you're not going to be very good or you're going to make a mistake. We try to give the benefit of the doubt.And "one shot - one kill"? That's more myth than reality.
"You've got to live with it. It's on your conscience. It's something you've got to carry away with you. And if you shoot somebody just walking down the street, then that's probably going to haunt you."
Although killing with a single shot carries an enormous cachet within the sniper world, their most successful engagements have involved the shooting a up to 10 members of a single IED team.TAGS: Shadow sniper team, Ramadi, Iraq
"The one-shot-one-kill thing is one of beauty but killing all the bad dudes is even more attractive," said Staff Sgt Gilliland, whose motto is "Move fast, shoot straight and leave the rest to the counsellors in 10 years."