This photograph was recently posted to the Facebook page of the Alabama National Guard. It features an Army Guardsman Sniper during a stalking course while in training. It appears that a combat cameraman (Staff Sgt. William Frye) was present during the stalking exercise held at Eglin AFB in Florida, possibly walking around and was able to snap the photograph just as the Back Snake slithered over the M110 SASS as it was in position. Captions for the photograph mention that Sniper PFC William Snyder as currently serving with the 1st Battalion of the 173rd Infantry Regiment (not to be confused with the 173rd Airborne Brigade). The image even made it into USA Today.
From the post-
A southern black racer snake slithers across the barrel of junior U.S. ArmyNational Guard sniper Pfc. William Snyder’s rifle as he practices woodland stalking in a camouflaged ghillie suit during a 1-173 Infantry training exercise Satuday, April 7, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base. Our snipers are trained to remain perfectly still for hours on end when in position and remain invisible to enemies and even wildlife.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)
Usually during a stalk the various pieces of foliage/veg is attached to the rifle via sticking them through rubber bands and other crevices on the rifle. In addition, finding a prone position can be extremely difficult, especially if stalking through dense forest such as this. In this picture it appears that the veg is piled on top of the rifle instead of individually attached, in addition to being piled on top of the shooter himself. This leads me to believe his position might have been helped by another shooter who piled the vegetation on top, instead of a normal stalk where the shooter would have had to attach all this individually.
For those unfamiliar with stalking, it is an extremely difficult training exercise undertaken by military sniper regimes across the world. It involves an Observer, a Walker, and of course a student Sniper. The most common exercise is to start the student off several hundred meters from an observer station where instructors or experienced snipers are looking intently through powered optics. The goal is to sneak to without a certain distance, usually between 100-300 meters, set up a final firing position and take a shot at the observer’s with a blank round. Once the blank round is fired, the Walker has to walk to within 10 meters of the student. Then he has to fire another blank round directly at the observers while they are staring directly in his general area. He might also have to positively identify a given symbol so show that he is indeed aiming in directly on the observers. At any time during this entire process the observers can spot the student and direct the Walker to where they think he is via radio control. It is extremely complex and to become proficient at stalking is almost an art of movement, patience, tactics, time management, camouflage, and pure luck. Personally I think the British stalking training method appears to be the most dynamic because it requires live rounds to be fired at targets instead of blanks. This is done safely by letting the Walker know when a round is about to be fired, allowing the Observers time to get behind a safe backstop underneath the target.
Unfortunately this “Art” is sometimes seen as a burden in many militaries intent on fast moving mobile warfare. It also can be seen as a budget burden because so many potential snipers fail the dreaded stalking events in sniper schools.