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Unseen Airmen keep watchful eye over airshow crowd

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- (Editor's note: This is part one of a three part series.)

Thirty degrees Fahrenheit, tensed muscles, calm breathing, dedication and skill--they're the best.

High above the flightline, skills of Airmen were tested to their max at the Airpower Arkansas 2006 airshow, but these skills didn't involve flying, they involved an M-24 Sniper rifle, a steady hand and calm demeanor.

Tech. Sgts. Johnny Rushing and Ron White from the 188th Security Force's Squadron in Fort Smith were two of many Air Force sharpshooters providing "overwatch" for base officials here.

"We're watching for suspicious activity," Sergeant White said scanning the crowd with his high-powered laser range finding military binoculars. "We're looking for hazards--while also helping to look for missing children and adults," referring to an 80-year old man who wandered away from his family.

The sharpshooters provided overwatch day and night, in the rain and sun, Sergeant Rushing said as he demonstrated the ability to read a person's lips through his truck windshield more than 100 meters a way. 

Sergeant Rushing, with more than eight years as a sharpshooter, stated that a sniper creates chaos in battle, however at the air show, there biggest role was that of a "deterrent."

"I feel safer knowing they're there," said Airman First Class Kristen Jones, 314th Maintenance Squadron.

Those comments were also echoed by the Jones family from Hope, Ark. stating they were glad to see the sharpshooters and that this was their first time visiting the airshow.

The sharpshooters are instructors for the 19-day Close Precision Engagement sharpshooter course at Camp Robinson, which involves 18-20 hour days of "intense physical and emotional strain," Sergeant White said.

The course is open to males and females in top physical shape, expert with the M-16 and have an endorsement by their unit commander.

"The biggest thing we look for is attention to detail, accountability and integrity," the tandem team said as they altered from spotter to shooter on the hangar rooftop.

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