Tyler was covered with his own handmade camouflage suit, spray-painted different colors "like a chameleon," with a mottled front he had designed "not to look like a human, but to be natural and exist in negative space, to be invisible." He had layers of mosquito netting covering his face, and he had backed into the shadows. The man could not see Tyler, could not even see his green eyes.
"Every hair on my body was standing on end,'' Tyler says. "He could have tossed a grenade into that opening. But I need to see that he is a threat, absolutely. I need to know. He has to deserve to die."
The man left and 20 minutes later returned with someone else. The first man began to dig a hole in the roadway with a trowel while the other served as a lookout. The first man dropped something into the hole, perhaps a bomb.
"I didn't have a rifle, but I confirmed the target – both of those guys – and I cleared my men hot. It would be a simultaneous shoot. I counted down – 'Three, two, one…' and we took out the mine guy, about 75 meters away, and the lookout guy, about 125 meters away, at the same time. We had to do it precisely so that neither would be alerted. Within seconds a truck came flying down the road and picked up the farther body. But the first guy had fallen directly on top of the mine, or whatever it was. And it was a mine. We detonated it, and he disappeared."
Tyler didn't take those death shots, but he produced them. Though he won't talk about it, it seems likely that snipers under his command have killed more than two dozen men, and he himself has killed maybe a half dozen or more. He won't deny that. And maybe the body count is much higher. He doesn't like to discuss it. "There are noncombatants in that number," he says.
"If I shot somebody, or men under my command did, I took full responsibility for that. I know that helped the men, lifted the burden." But what about the burden on him? "It sucks. It's impossible, really, trying to be precise. Nothing is clear. I never had a textbook case. Never. You do your best. You follow the rules of engagement, your conscience. And then the next morning you wake up and you think, Oh, my God."