Several notable snipers have served in the US military over the decades, with the biggest names coming to mind being Chris Kyle, Carlos Hathcock, Chuck Mawhinney and Gary Gordon. There might be another name being added to that list in the future, as the US Army has just welcomed its first-ever active-duty female sniper: Maciel Hay.
Maciel Hay is a cavalry scout with 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade. She has an aptitude for military service, excelling at basic training, during which her skills caught the attention of leadership, and airborne school. It wasn’t long before it was suggested she try her hand at the US Army’s Sniper School at Fort Moore, Georgia.
Growing up, Hay was nicknamed “Sniper” – a pretty apt moniker, given her recent accomplishment. “I grew up shooting, mostly rifles and handguns, on my family’s ranches in Rocklin, California and Medford, Oregon,” she shared in a press release. “But the nickname came from the fact that I could find things really fast, similar to how a sniper does target detection.”
While she had the support of leadership upon entering the US Army, a friend once told her that she’d never become a sniper – a statement Hay was determined to prove wrong. “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,” she recalled in the press release. “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.”
The Sniper School is among the US Army’s most difficult courses. Established in 1987, it spans weeks and sees candidates tested on marksmanship, field craft, intelligence gathering, urban sniper operations, concealment, land navigation and survival. There are very few who pass, meaning those who receive their certificate are among the best sharpshooters the service has to offer.
According to the press release, soldiers are given different titles, depending on how successful they are at hitting their targets. Those who hit 23 are granted the status of “marksman,” while at least 30 need to be hit to earn the title of “sharpshooter.” For someone to be called an “expert,” they must shoot a minimum of 36. Maciel Hay is among that pedigree.
That being said, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the cavalry soldier, who explained that she struggled when it came to “rapid target engagement and intelligence reporting.” However, with the help of her fellow candidates, she was able to succeed, receiving her certification as a US Army sniper on November 3, 2023.
Before Maciel Hay completed the course, an unnamed National Guardsman from Montana was the first female to officially finish it, in November 2021.
As for what’s next for the skilled shooter, Hay says she hopes to become a jumpmaster, while others are telling her to attend the famed US Army Ranger School. While she decides, she’ll be stationed in Anchorage, Alaska.