A story and photograph of a 19-year-old former cheerleader who became a sniper for the United States Air Force has been going around for some time. According to the story (which quickly became a meme), Polly-Jan Bobseine shot a member of the Taliban dead in his tracks from 725 yards away while he was trying to plant an improvised explosive device:
This nineteen-year-old ex-cheerleader (now an Air Force Security Forces Sniper) was watching a road that led to a NATO military base when she observed a man digging by the road. She engaged the target (i.e., she shot him). Turned out he was a bomb maker for the Taliban and he was burying an IED that was to be detonated when a US patrol walked by 30 minutes later. It would have certainly killed and wounded several soldiers.
The interesting fact of this story is the shot was measured at 725 yards. She shot him as he was bent over burying the bomb. The shot went through his butt and into the bomb which detonated; he was blown to pieces. The Air Force made a motivational poster of her.
The story of the former cheerleader taking a nearly-impossible shot that extrajudicially killed a member of the Taliban — despite being featured as a mix of truth and falsehoods on sites such as Guns.com — is contrived. However, the woman in the photograph is real, and she did work as a United States Air Force sniper. Senior Airman Polly-Jan Bobseine was at the time a Journeyman in the 823rd Security Forces Squadron stationed at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.
According to a 2006 biography, Bobseine was homeschooled and was already a marksman prior to joining the Air Force:
She competed in state and regional High-Power Rifle shooting, achieved New York State’s 2000 Junior Trap Champion title, taught skiing, snowboarding, and lettered in Swimming. After graduating high school, Airman Bobseine moved to Wyoming where she was employed as a horse wrangler until relocating to Tennessee to train horses professionally before enlisting in the United States Air Force, leaving in March 2003 for Lackland Air Force Base, Texas for basic training. Upon graduation, she volunteered for a special duty assignment to the 823d Security Forces Squadron, Moody AFB, Georgia, arriving in August 2003.
The Air Force named Bobseine “Outstanding Airman of the Year” along with eleven other non-commissioned officers in 2006, but she served in Iraq (not Afghanistan), where she was deployed for 187 days of high-risk operations.
The original untouched courtesy photo of Senior Airman Polly-Jan Bobseine behind an M-24 sniper rifle was taken during weapons training, as seen on a U.S. Air Force web site. The M-24 Sniper rifle has a maximum efficiency rating of 800 meters.
There is no mention of cheerleader in Bobseine’s biography.