The SEAL sniper course is three months of twelve-plus-hour days, seven days a week. Ironically, it is not all that demanding physically. After going through the brutality of BUD/S and some of the programs in SEAL Tactical Training, there was nothing in the sniper course that posed any real physical challenge. But it is extremely challenging mentally.
The students who entered the course were already the cream of the crop, but the attrition rate was still vicious. When I took the sniper course in the spring of 2000, we classed up with twenty-six guys at the start. Three months of continuous training later, only twelve of us would graduate.
A few weeks after our conversation in Lt. McNarys office, Glen and I, along with two dozen others, mustered at the SEAL Team 5 quarterdeck in Coronado for our initial sniper school in-briefing. Though this would later change, at the time the different SEAL teams would rotate as course host, and it happened to be Team 5s turn.
They told us that there were two principle parts to the sniper training. First came the shooting phase, which would focus on learning our weapons, advanced ballistics, and of course the actual marksmanship training, during which we would work in pairs taking turns as shooter or spotter. Second was the stalking phase, where we would be trained in the arts of stealth and concealment.
We would be conducting the shooting phase at the Coalinga range, a private inland facility about a hundred miles northwest of Bakersfield, where we would camp out, receive all our instruction, and do all our shooting. In the event we survived the shooting phase, we would then go on to the stalking phase, concluding with our graded final training exercise (FTX) out in the California desert near Niland.
After meeting our instructors we got the rest of our gear list and were then divided into shooting pairs. Glen and I were happy to learn we had been paired together as shooting partners. We had been working together in GOLF platoon for over a year by this point, had developed a good friendship, and trusted each other implicitly. As intimidated as we were, things were lining up in our favor. Now we just had to do the workand do it perfectly.
We kicked off the course by going out to Camp Pendleton for a qualifying shoot. Just to start the sniper course we had to be shooting on the standard Navy rifle at expert level. They took us through a brief class to make sure we all knew how to set up and operate all our weapons, and then we were out on the range shooting.
We started off at 100 yards, doing a standing shot, then sitting shot, then standing-to-sitting rapid, then a prone slow fire, then a standing-to-prone rapid fire. Next we went out to 200 yards and shot another volley. Out of a perfect score of 200, we had to shoot at least 180 to qualify as shooting expert. We each got two tries. Some guys didn’t make it, and we lost a few right then and there.
The rest of us saddled up and headed north for Coalinga, where we would spend the next six weeks camping out on the property of the Coalinga Rifle Club, a five-hour drive from San Diego up in Californias Central Valley. When we arrived there, we found the place had a shower, bathroom facilities, a small kitchen facility, and that was about it. The classes would take place outdoors on picnic tables under the cover of a few shade trees. As we soon learned, it got hot as hell out there.
This place sports one of the largest shooting ranges in the west; the regional and state shooting championships are held there. Its also fairly isolated far enough away from any distractions (read: women and beer) that it would force us to focus on the task at hand.
This answer was written by Mike Eegan at Quora.