As the Army generally struggles with recruiting and finding volunteers, some incredibly talented individuals are still joining up with the Army, among whom is U.S. Army Sgt. Maciel Hay. Sgt. Hay is a cavalry scout with the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, and she just passed the Army’s sniper course last month at Fort Moore, Georgia, making her the first woman ever to do so.
The incredibly difficult sniper course is a challenge because it requires students develop not just truly exceptional skills with various rifles, but also become effective at the classic sniper arts of stalking and concealment, and become proficient in crucial military and fieldcraft skills like land navigation and intelligence gathering.
exceptional marksmanship skills with various sniper rifles, including bolt-action and semi-automatic systems, sniper candidates are tested in the art of stalking and concealment, observation and intelligence gathering, survival skills and land navigation, as well as urban sniper operations where snipers perform their craft in densely populated areas.
Speaking about the success in a press release from her brigade, Sgt. Hay said that the achievement fits given her success as a shooter growing up, saying, “My nickname growing up was ‘Sniper.’” Continuing, she added, “I grew up shooting, mostly rifles and handguns, on my family’s ranches in Rocklin, California and Medford, Oregon. But the nickname came from the fact that I could find things really fast, similar to how a sniper does target detection.”
She also joked that, despite her precociousness with a rifle, one of her friends said she would never be able to pass the course, which requires numerous difficult-to-acquire and near-impossible-to-perfect skills other than marksmanship. She said, “A close friend of mine told me I’d never make it in the Army, and there’s no way I could become a sniper. Needless to say, that person is no longer part of my life. But now that I look back at it, I really do appreciate the motivation.”
Describing one such skill she had to acquire to pass the course, Sgt. Hay added, “It took many hours, multiple people and tons of sewing to create an acceptable ghillie suit.” A ghillie suit is a suit that closely mimics the local environment, allowing a sniper to remain concealed in plain site when observing a target and firing upon it.
Commenting on other, non-shooting aspects of the sniper course that she found difficult, Sgt. Hay added, “The rapid target engagement and intelligence reporting were two of the toughest areas for me. I also struggled with the very last test where we had to engage long distance targets while sitting on our rucksacks. That position threw off my balance.”
But she did manage to overcome those obstacles and pass, thanks not just to her skill but also to the encouragement of one of her first leaders in the Army, a drill sergeant. “Even though I only shot sharpshooter at first [she eventually shot ‘expert,’ the top score], then eventually expert later on in basic training, my drill sergeant encouraged me to pursue the goal of sniper school,” she said.
Her platoon sergeant, Sgt. Antwon Jones, said, “Sgt. Hay is just an incredible non-commissioned officer that comes to work every day with the intention of making not only her team better, but also the entire organization.” And, speaking about it being a team effort in the unit to get her to sniper school, Sgt. Jones said, “One example that comes to mind is our new Behavioral Health Provider, Capt. Lee. He wasn’t even in-processed with the unit at that point, but he made time on a Saturday to meet with Sgt. Hay for a screening needed for her submission packet.”
Featured image credit: taken by Patrick Albright, public domain from 173rd Airborne Brigade
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