More reports of Mia Steller
0645 hours, arsenal of Aigle, the briefing is about to end. Some people are still studying a map and, using a ruler, are pointing topographic coordinates. Outside, in the first light of dawn, a hundred soldiers get ready for the opening ceremony of the Best Sniper 2018. They line up around a few burning torches, the silence is broken by the solemn sound of a bagpipe. 26 pairs of competitors coming from all the linguistic regions of Switzerland, but also from France and Italy, will have to physically, technically and strategically surpass their opponents.

Sergeant Major Jean-François Villettaz is the founder and organizer of the competition, as part of the ASSO, the Swiss Association of Non-Commissioned Officers, section of Valais. He explains that the snipers were originally game keepers who were fighting against poaching in Scotland. Marksmanship is supplemented by the skills of observation, tracking and camouflage. It has remained the term for the sniper’s outfit, the ghillie, that in Gaelic language refers to small beings able to change into a leaf or a plant.

The patrols are brought to the military training area of Petit Hongrin, in the sector of the Col des Mosses at an altitude of 1500 meters. After a 3.7 km approach walk, they reach the zone where multiple trials are spread in 16 positions. These include orientation exercises, tank reconnaissance, shooting challenges with the long distance Sako rifle, swiss assault rifle, P220 pistol, or a revolver of 1882. Team members train to collaborate, to support each other and to take advantage of their respective abilities. The instructors give them precise instructions, encourage them and value their efforts and performances.

At 1800 hours, the competitors gather to select, according to the number of points obtained previously, the mission they wish to accomplish. For example, they will have to infiltrate the area of a possible arms transaction, collect the registration numbers of the involved vehicles and identify the type of weapons sold. They will walk many kilometers in difficult terrain and spend the night in ambush, avoiding being spotted by the enemy whose role is played by the instructors. Once the mission is complete, they will exfiltrate and return to the rallying point. After two gruelling days, it’s a team of exploratory grenadiers, both professional soldiers and members of the ASSO Sion, that made the difference and won the first edition of the best sniper competition.
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