Like all of America’s service men and women, Covington resident Matt Cooper possesses a proud yet tough attitude when it comes to defending our country.
The National guardsman is a member of the 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment of the 48th Brigade. Temporarily back on American soil after completing a deployment to Iraq, Cooper has been diligently working on accelerating his soldier skills. Though fairly popular among his friends and acquaintances in Newton County, many people still do not know that Cooper recently became a qualified sniper.
"The sniper is a professional soldier who holds himself to a higher standard than that of a normal soldier," Cooper explained. "We pride ourselves on our job and it takes a certain type of person to do what it is we do."
According to the US Army, snipers are highly trained in delivering accurate rifle shots to moving and non-moving enemy targets. Snipers possess unmatchable marksmanship and are highly skilled in military observation techniques such as stalking and stress fire.
Cooper’s sniper career began when he attended the US Army’s Sniper school in northern Little Rock, Arkansas last winter. According to Cooper, acing the course was no easy feat. Out of 34 prospective snipers in attendance, only 15 graduated. The course lasted 4 weeks in duration and was taught by strict military personnel who referred to the course as "Big Boy School." The first two weeks of the course focused on training the soldiers in achieving excellent marksmanship and the other two weeks focused on what Cooper referred to as field craft.
"It was really tough but it was also pretty cool," Cooper said. "It was a pretty big deal to go to sniper school because it is for qualified and mature soldiers."
More recently, Cooper and his shooting partner Tyler Cruthirds of Norcross competed in the Eighth International United States Army Sniper Competition held in Ft. Benning Oct. 16- 22.
Cooper and Cruthirds worked as a team competing against 31 other teams from countries such as Denmark, Spain, France and Ireland. The duo took 11th place overall out of 31 teams. However, they proudly achieved first place in a competition involving shooting distances up to 800 meters and also ranked first place in a convoy live fire competition. The latter of the two involved shooting at moving targets in a mock convoy/ road ambush.
According to Cooper, the success achieved by him and his partner during the competition was the result of keeping a "cool head" and possessing a disciplined and high level military skill. He said his team actually achieved the highest points in situations involving spur-of-the-minute decisions with "chaos breaking out all around."
"My partner and I received compliments from even some of the Special Forces about our skill level and that made us feel really good."
Cooper used two weapons in the sniper competitions. His primary gun was a M-110 semi- automatic sniper system and his secondary gun was a pistol. With the M-110 firearm, he used a scope and sometimes a data book in order to measure the speed of his shooting partner’s bullet. He watched his partner’s bullets fly through the air and obtained readings on variables such wind speed. His partner used an M-24. Cooper described his support/spotter role as the "brain" for the shooter.
"I was nervous at first, but after that I was comfortable and confident," he said.
Cooper said the Military Channel was present at the competitions and that the competitions should be aired on cable television by this coming spring.
When Cooper’s enlistment is up, he aspires to work for the CIA or a similar echelon of government. Yet for now, he is to be deployed again next year.
"America is a great country and it feels good defending this country," Cooper said. "I believe what I do is necessary for our country."