Being a Navy SEAL Sniper

Chris Kyle on using his first gun to shoot birds and squirrels, wondering if he would be able to kill someone, and feeling like a secret agent.

Photograph by Matt HawthorneNAME: Chris Kyle |  AGE: 37 |  HOMETOWN: Dallas |  QUALIFICATIONS: Served four combat tours during the Iraq war between 2003 and 2009 / Has more than 160 confirmed kills, the most in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces / Has earned two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars With Valor, and numerous other commendations / Wrote an autobiography, American Sniper, about his years of military service

● Like a lot of boys, my first gun was a Daisy BB rifle. I’d go out back and shoot birds and squirrels. As I got older, my dad bought me a shotgun to go dove and pheasant hunting and a rifle to shoot deer. But I honestly didn’t know I was a decent shot until I joined the military.

● When I signed up, I always wondered if I would be able to kill someone. As you’re getting ready for your first deployment, it crosses your mind: “Am I really going to be able to pull the trigger?” And then when someone is actually in your sight, your first thought is “Can I really do this? Is this moral? Is this person really a bad person?”

● I wanted to be a sniper because I wanted to make those precision shots. During the war in Iraq, we didn’t drop a lot of bombs because we worried about the collateral damage. So snipers were always on their guns; we were constantly working.

● You don’t put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to kill whoever is in your sight.

● The weapon I used most was a .300 Win Mag, a bolt-action precision sniper rifle. I could hit a target from 1,800 yards, and it would shoot like a laser.

● There is so much more to being a sniper than just being a monkey on a gun. You almost feel like a secret agent, because you get onto the battlefield before your guys do, and you give them live, up-to-the-minute intel about what’s happening. That keeps your guys safe. If you’re lucky, it could save their life.

● There’s a lot going through your mind when you’re in the field. You have to know what to look for. Is the bad guy doing something blatantly wrong? Is he putting your troops in danger? Your job is to watch the whole environment, and the longer you do it, the easier it is to pick out the person who doesn’t fit in.

● Fallujah was bad, Ramadi was worse, but Sadr City was the hardest of them all.

● After Ramadi, Army intel told me that the insurgents had put a bounty on my head. The enemy called me al-Shaitan, “the devil.” I thought to myself, “Oh, hell yeah!” It was an honor.

● It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.

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