Female Snipers

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Air Force 1st Lt. Jennifer Weitekamp, U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Robert R. Adams, Public Affairs, Public Domain

Some might think that being essentially a professional killer would be predominately a male job – and perhaps by numbers, it is. That perception is slowly changing, as women fill more jobs in the military previously reserved for men.

Though it isn’t clear who was actually the first, there are several women who went through sniper school in the early 2000s, and fought for their place. Lt. Weitekamp was one of those, and the Air Force, not normally thought of in ground combat, has been the pioneer in this area among the United States services. These women paved the way for lifting the ban on women in combat in 2015.

A sniper usually has a second person, a spotter, that accompanies them on a mission. They work as a team, and in the event that the sniper is wounded, killed, or unable to accomplish the mission, the spotter might take over. The spotter also verifies the kill, and has to go through the same training as the sniper.

Sgt. 1st Class Ben Dolan, a former Marine sniper, served as the instructor.

“Frankly, women are better suited mentally for this job than most men,” said Dolan who has learned the sniper craft from the Marines and from the Army and who saw duty as a Marine sniper 10 years ago during the Persian Gulf War. “A woman is best suited to counter a woman sniper,” he added. “That’s important because more than 50 percent of the countries that have been considered hostile to the United States, including North Vietnam and North Korea, have used women snipers.

“Women can shoot better, by and large, and they’re easier to train because they don’t have the inflated egos that a lot of men bring to these programs,” Dolan said. “Women will ask for help if they need it, and they will tell you what they think.” Dolan has designed the countersniper program for Air National Guard security people, and he has no reservations about training women who can handle the 15-hour days of running and shooting and camouflage lessons in the woods.” http://userpages.aug.com/captbarb/sniper.html#:~:text=First%20Woman%20Sniper%20School%20Graduate&text=Senior%20Airman%20Jennifer%20Donaldson%20from,sniper%20school%20open%20to%20females.

Another female student of the sniper school is Senior Airman Jennifer Donaldson, who graduated in 2001.

She and her partner, Staff Sgt. Frank Tallman from Kentucky, were the first team to complete and pass a 2.7-mile land navigation course through thick woods that day. She was steeling herself to do another three-hour course that night.

“I had no idea it would be this hard,” said Donaldson after her first week. “I’ve been in the Guard for a year. I’ve done basic training and tech school. But I’ve never seen this kind of physical training. Some of us had to get fit while we were here.”

In other countries, the barriers fell earlier or about the same time. Isreal, for example, has the Caracal Battalion, which has been 70% women from the beginning.

Caracal Battalion engaged in combat on September 21, 2012 on the Egyptian border, following the infiltration of a group of terrorists. Responding to a radio report of the attack, in a fire-fight a female Caracal infantry soldier killed a terrorist, who was wearing a Suicide Belt.

In October 2014, a jeep of the battalion was attacked by militants from the Egyptian border with gunfire and an anti-tank missile. Two soldiers were injured. One of the injured, a female officer, Captain Or Ben-Yehuda, nonetheless dismounted from the jeep and returned fire killing one militant in the fire-fight. Second Lieutentant Noy was the first female commander of the sniper platoon in Caracal Battalion.

In fact, the most successful sniper in history was a Ukrainan woman serving in the Soviet Army in WW2, Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko, called “Lady Death” for her 309 confirmed kills – there were probably more, but confirmation required witnesses. Her story is celebrated in the novel “Diamond Eye”, releasing tomorrow (March 29, 2022) on Amazon.


In a dramatic display of talent, the following YouTube video showcases the sniper ability of a Chinese female sniper.