ZOO meets sergeant Craig Harrison, the man responsible for the longest-ever sniper kill…
After spending almost his entire working life serving in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, sergeant Craig Harrison – of Her Majesty’s Household Cavalry – saw his world flipped upside down when he claimed the longest-ever sniper kill. This is his story…
HELLO, CRAIG. IS BEING A SNIPER THE TOUGHEST ROLE IN THE MILITARY?
I wouldn’t say that, but it’s one of the most vital positions. If you have a sniper at your disposal, you can hold up an entire Army with your precision shooting. You’re the one taking out key personnel and signalmen, and you’re there to cause panic by taking out the guy sitting eating his food: that causes mayhem. A sniper can cause a hell of a lot of damage!
HOW PERSONAL IS A SNIPER’S KILL?
You’re looking through a high-powered scope that can magnify a target by up to 50 times. It’s like looking at someone from across a table – but I’m sitting in a hide 600 metres away.I know the colour of their hair, their eyes and what they’ve been doing for the last few hours of their life. As a sniper, we’re there to gather as much information as possible before we get the call to pull the trigger.
DID YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF IN ANY PARTICULARLY STICKY SITUATIONS?
We were stationed in an outpost in Iraq. It was basically 10 minutes walk from our main base at Basra Palace, but it would take us two-and-a-half hours to drive as the insurgents were smashing us from every angle. At night, the gates of hell would open, and bullets rained down on us. I was sniping from a multi-storey building as they fired RPGs at our oil tankers just below. Luckily for us, they failed to arm the grenades properly, so they didn’t detonate.
AS A SNIPER, HOW DID YOU EVER TURN THE TIDE OF WAR?
Most probably on the day of my longest kill. I’d led my men into what turned out to be a killing zone. It was a complete stalemate! The Taliban had a scout marshalling their troops, who we could hear on the radio. They flooded the field we were crossing leaving us stranded, so I managed to ward off the scout with nine missed shots. But then the nomads cleared off, leaving their tents and their fires. I thought I had been spotted and was expecting to be flanked, so I had to think quickly.
TELL US HOW YOU MANAGED TO PULL OFF YOUR LONGEST KILL.
Expecting an incoming attack any minute, my spotter and I frantically scanned the landscape, looking for hostiles. I came across two Taliban soldiers taking up position on a belt-fed machine gun. I knew my calculations from my last shots and proceeded to fire. My first shot missed, so I readjusted my sights and fired again. This time, it was a hit! I then fired on the second target, quickly bolted the gun and fired again. I had two bullets in the air about three seconds apart. The first missed, but the second hit. I had picked them off from almost 2,500 metres out.
AND THIS MADE YOU A DIRECT TARGET FOR AL-QAEDA…
My story was leaked to the press and the lads and me were interviewed after our medal parade. They took a particular interest in my world record shots and as the story came out in the papers, I was told to enjoy the limelight. Then the next day I received another call saying intelligence suggested there was a plot to kidnap and murder me because one of the Taliban I’d killed was a leader. I had to go into hiding for almost two years under police protection.
DOES THE THREAT STILL WORRY YOU?
Not as much now, but in the Army we are always taught about the “what if” factor. The police are still aware of the situation and that helps make it more comfortable. But we still have to watch what we do. One minute you could be opening a door and the next minute, you’re gone.
HAVE YOU GOT ANY BATTLE SCARS?
A few. I went into a firefight where my wagon was shot around 136 times. I was hit in the helmet and the round went right through the top and luckily missed my head. It left me knocked out for 20 seconds and when I came round, I was hit through my body armour. That bullet exited out of my side. My driver at the time saved me, because I would have fallen out of the door if he hadn’t dragged me back in. I spent a day in a field ambulance as we were so far forward, suffering from concussion, whiplash and vomiting. I had to tell the doctor I was fine as I wanted to get back to the lads in the fight.
WHAT WAS YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE?
I spent our time in Kosovo digging up mass graves. We were completely helpless. As we patrolled at the border near Pristina, the Serbs were shooting at us all the time but we weren’t allowed to shoot back. We got absolutely smashed in Kosovo.
Sgt Craig Harrison’s full story, The Longest Kill: The Story Of Maverick 41, is out now through Sidgwick & Jackson