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2 INTERVIEW In the crosshairs of US's deadliest
"We as sniping
veterans continue to set the standards which
others follow. I encourage you all to continue to
set a good example ... by watching your language,
holding your anger, and displaying maturity
through your skills. All of you veterans rock.
Keep up the good work." - Founder of the
Snipers' United Federation, "Black Knight".
Chris Kyle is a former United States
Navy SEAL credited with being the deadliest sniper
in US military history. He made 160 confirmed
kills (out of 255 claimed) while serving in Iraq.
In an interview with Victor Fic he explains
how to compensate for the Earth's curvature and
why snipers can be as superstitious as baseball
players on a hitting streak.
Odessa, Texas, Kyle is the son of a Sunday
teacher and a
deacon. His father bought him his first gun at
eight years old, a bolt-action .30-06 Springfield
rifle and later a shotgun, with which they hunted
pheasant, quail and deer. In Ramadi in Iraq,
insurgents put a $80,000 bounty on his head and
branded him Al-Shaitan Ramadi or "The
Devil of Ramadi". Kyle is the author of
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most
Lethal Sniper in US Military History.
Victor Fic:You recall that
as a boy, you only fought defensively ...
Chris Kyle: Oh, absolutely.
I did get into fights when I was a boy in Texas,
but always because I was standing up to a bully to
protect myself or someone else. My dad was very
strict. If I started a fight, he would severely
VF: You note that
the dropout rate for SEAL training is close to
90%. Did you fly through it?
Many SEAL candidates are natural athletes
for whom everything had come naturally. The SEAL
training stunned them. But I was not such an
athlete. Nothing came easy for me. So I was
prepared for the constant struggle and stress. You
must have a lot of mettle and mental focus to pass
the training. I told myself I had mastered
challenges before and also that the pain of
training would not last forever.
Why does the training program deem the
side stroke the most vital swimming skill?
CK: It is because that is a
key combat swimming stroke. In the water, it
permits you to stay close to the surface to see
but also not to splash to much.
It will surprise many to learn what
happened if a SEAL on training stopped to urinate
CK: Oh, definitely. We
were constantly facing the threat of hypothermia.
If you saw a bunch of guys huddled in a group and
shivering, one was urinating and the others were
nearby to try to feel warm from it.
VF: In your sniper training
course, the fail rate was 50% - and you almost
flubbed it. What was so hard?
It was the stalking part. I had to wear a
camouflage outfit that made me look like a bush
and then move quietly forward toward the target.
It takes much patience and I am not always
patient. Sometimes I had the focus and other times
no. The stalking exercise almost failed me out of
the course. Then once I met a rattle snake during
the training. Luckily, he went one way and I went
VF: Why do you
praise the .300 Win as the best sniper rifle?
CK: That rifle is definitely
the very best. Most snipers back it. Only US
special operations use it. It shoots farther than
others and it has a flatter bullet trajectory. If
you aim at a target 300 yards [274 meters] away,
you can hit it on a straight line.
VF: Share some of your trade
skills. For instance, what is the Corlionis
CK: It refers to how
the sniper always stands at a specific location on
the Earth's surface. His position is always seen
relative to the target and he must take into
account the Earth's curvature, especially for a
moving target passing in front say from east to
west, and adjust his aim. The sniper uses a
hand-held ballistic computer to calculate all
VF: You admit to being
superstitious - in what way?
I wore the same clothes - clean ones of
course - like my favorite camouflage. It is like
the baseball player who bats .300. He continues
with all his rituals. Most snipers are like that.
VF: Ironically, you play an
electronic version of a game that old Hong Kong
ladies love - mahjong. Why?
CK: It is very good for
sharpening observation skills against a timer. I
had to observe the various tiles and quickly match
them up and click it in.
In Iraq, why did the Polish special forces
say that you were "lions led by dogs?"
CK: The elite Polish units
felt that our leaders failed to really apply our
courage and skill in the initial assault on
Baghdad. Our commanders did not have us vigorously
engage the enemy or send us out on all the
missions possible. Instead, they were concerned
with minimizing casualties partly to ensure they
won promotions. But the Poles were tough and
always ready to fight.
Kyle with his unit, eyes shaded in the
photo to protect identities.