Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Three pirates, three rounds, three dead bodies."

It's simply amazing to think of the accuracy of those Navy SEAL snipers with all the various factors that made their task difficult.
Several dozen SEALs had secretly boarded the destroyer Bainbridge late Saturday after parachuting into the ocean nearby and climbing into inflatable boats.

Then they bided their time, waiting for a chance to save the hostage, Capt. Richard Phillips. That came around dusk Sunday, as the Bainbridge towed the lifeboat holding the captain and pirates from its stern.

The snipers could see two pirates peering out from the back of the enclosed lifeboat and the third pointing his assault rifle at Phillips. President Barack Obama had cleared them to shoot if the captain faced imminent threat of death.

When the order came to shoot, former SEALs said, the hard part was not the distance – about 75 feet, an easy range for an experienced sniper.

The biggest risk came from the many moving parts: the bobbing lifeboat, the rolling ship, hitting three targets simultaneously in darkness.

With deadly accuracy, the snipers fired their rifles in unison. They killed the pirates with exactly three shots.
Just amazing. Or as one military official said, "Three pirates, three rounds, three dead bodies."

We shouldn't take such skill for granted. It takes a lot of strenuous training for a SEAL to get to that level.
That marksmanship is honed in or near San Diego County, said Cmdr. Greg Geisen, a spokesman for the Coronado-based Naval Special Warfare Command. The SEALs train in classrooms on the Silver Strand, on ranges in rural La Posta and Niland, or in varied settings around San Clemente Island.

“To get to the Tiger Woods level of play, you go through a lot of special training,” Geisen said.

Over several months, snipers practice hitting distant targets in urban and rural settings, said a local retired SEAL who was closely involved with sniper training during his Navy career. They learn how to drop from a helicopter into all kinds of environments.

And yes, they practice shooting at floating targets, in darkness, from boats.
They do all this without any fanfare or hometown parade. And with a becoming, yet revealing, modesty.
Ultimately, though, former SEALs made one point especially clear: A daring and precise rescue that has amazed Americans is business as usual in the cloak-and-dagger world of Navy special operations.

“What they're doing every day is absolutely eye-watering,” said the retired SEAL from San Diego County. “This is normal operating procedure. It's a day at the office.”