A U.S. District Court in the State of Alabama recently gave the go ahead for Corporal Jason Berry to enroll in the U.S. Army’s Sniper School. “It’s been a long, tough fight,” said Jason, coming out of the courthouse with his mother and father, in Birmingham, Alabama. “I know I’ll make my country, and my parents proud.”
“We’re just so happy that Jason can finally realize his dream,’” his mother, close to tears, gushed to reporters.
Why is Corporal Berry so special? Well, he’s set to become the first legally blind sniper the army has ever trained.
Chief Warrant Officer Michael Lynch followed Jason and his family out of the courthouse. When asked how he felt about pushing a blind cadet through the training course, he shook his head and muttered something about “political correctness,” and then lifted his head and said, “We’ll train the kid. That’s our job. We’ll do what the Army tells us to do.”
Jason wasn’t born blind, but a degenerative eye disease inherited from the paternal side of his family robbed him of more than 80% of his sight, two years after he enlisted in the military. “I’d always wanted to be a sniper. When I lost my sight, I thought that dream was gone. Now I know, as an American, I can do anything I set my mind to,” Jason explained.
A large part of being a sniper is simply waiting. Snipers wait for hours, or even days, before their target presents itself. “There’s a lot of fatigue associated with the job,” Jason went on. “Guys get bored of looking at the same thing hour after hour, day after day. I won’t have that problem. One blurry patch of light pretty much looks the same as the next. It doesn’t matter if I’m on a mountainside in Central Asia, or in a McDonalds in Clarksdale, Mississippi.”
“What we’ve got to do,” Captain Stone Reynolds told reporters, “is devise a completely new strategy in how we go about training Jason’s spotter. Spotters usually follow the vapor trail of a bullet, and then tell the sniper how he should readjust his aim. The man working with Jason is going to have to tell him where the target is, how to aim, and what to avoid.”
“I can’t wait to get started,” Jason said. “I won’t let my disability stop me from performing at the top of my game. Ask my folks, they know. I’m ready to kill someone.”
A Killer Elite
Two months into his training, Jason was still optimistic about his chances for success. “I hit more targets than I miss,” he confided. “The feel of the gun, the stilling of my heart, the strategy of the hunt. I can’t wait until I’m deployed in the field.”
His spotter, Specialist Doug Horsetail, was a bit more reserved in his praise. “Well, the guy’s motivated, that’s for sure. Sometimes I just want to take the gun from his hand and reposition it, or at least push the barrel so that it’s pointing in the right direction, but Jason won’t have it.”
“That’s right,” Jason laughed. “I keep telling him not to touch my gun.”
When asked about Jason’s progress, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Lynch rolled his eyes and spat. “Do you see this cast on my leg?” he asked. “Jason shot me in the leg. His target was at 11 O’clock, and I was standing at 3 O’clock. How does something like that happen? He’s shot two of his classmates, a German Shepard and three transport carriers. I’m just about ready to quit this Army.”
“Hey, I never said this was going to be easy,” Jason said, in response to Lynch’s complaints. “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs first.”