Though her childhood nickname was “Sniper,” there was no guarantee that’s what Army Sgt. Maciel Hay would become.
“I grew up shooting, mostly rifles and handguns, on my family’s ranches in Rocklin, California and Medford, Oregon,” Hay said in an Army release. “But the nickname came from the fact that I could find things really fast, similar to how a sniper does target detection.”
But now, she’s the Army’s first female active duty sniper.
“A close friend of mine told me I’d never make it in the Army, and there’s no way I could become a sniper,” Hay said. “Needless to say, that person is no longer part of my life. But now that I look back at it, I really do appreciate the motivation.”
Hay qualified with the M4 assault rifle during basic training. Now she serves as a cavalry scout with 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
“Even though I only shot sharpshooter at first, then eventually expert later on in basic training, my drill sergeant encouraged me to pursue the goal of sniper school,” Hay said.
Sgt. 1st Class Antwon Jones, Hay’s platoon sergeant, was one of many who supported her goal of becoming a sniper.
“Sgt. Hay is just an incredible non-commissioned officer that comes to work every day with the intention of making not only her team better, but also the entire organization,” he said in the release.
The sniper school selection process is not for the faint of heart. It’s an intensive 29-day course that focuses on field craft and marksmanship, according to the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Moore, Georgia.
“The purpose of the Sniper course is to develop snipers to be adaptive, critical thinkers, armed with the technical, tactical, and logistical skills necessary to plan and execute precision long-range, direct rifle fire against enemy targets while serving as a member of a Sniper Team,” the course description reads.
Hay hit snags during the course but ultimately persevered.
“The rapid target engagement and intelligence reporting were two of the toughest areas for me,” said Hay. “I also struggled with the very last test where we had to engage long distance targets while sitting on our rucksacks. That position threw off my balance.”
After learning how to readjust, she came out of the course successfully and ultimately graduated Nov. 3 as the first female active duty Army sniper.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.