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Grunts on Hunt for Snipers

Grunts on Hunt for Snipers
Article and Photos Courtesy U.S. Marine Corps

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Now you see him...

Now you don't. Cpl. Phillip L. Williams, 21, from Chilton County, Ala., moves through the brush during sniper training at Camp Talega April 8. (Photo by Cpl. Robert M. Storm)

"We're hiring," says Staff Sgt. Timothy C. La Sage, 28, native of Milwaukee, Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, when speaking of his unit's effort to recruit for their scout sniper platoon.

Marines applying for sniper status must not only be mentally sound but they also must be physically fit. They also must be an expert shooter from the infantry Military Occupational Specialty.

To become a sniper, applicants must pass a two-day screening.

"This includes a physical fitness test, swim qualifications, land navigation, ruck run, and night observation exercise. In total for the two days, they get about four hours of sleep," said Sgt. Adam R. Desy, Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

A Marine with the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Platoon of the 26th MEU (SOC) fires his sniper rifle on a live-fire range in Djibouti, East Africa. (Official photo by Cpl. Frank Wills, 26 MEU (SOC))

"We're looking for individuals that can operate on their own. They have to be responsible and they can't have any negative issues like a driving under the influence or other similar lapses in judgment," La Sage said.

The reason for such strict requirements is the responsibility the job carries. During operations, Marine snipers report real time enemy information to senior commanders.

A unit could base their movements off sniper-provided information to include raids and offensive actions against enemy forces.

After indoctrination, sniper applicants attend a four-week local training course on sniper basics.

"In the first week, we teach basic skills like stalking, observation skills, radio classes, and memory games. There is always physical training, too. We have to bring them to a higher standard than they're used too," La Sage said.

"During the second week, we teach more stalking, observation reporting, night training, tracking, and how to build a 'hide,' which is a field expedient covered and concealed position snipers can shoot from. It's similar to a fighting position. We call it a 'mole hole'," La Sage said.

"The third week is the mission week and they learn to operate on their own. We conduct a three-day field exercise in which we insert them approximately six kilometers from their target. They move to and observe the command center that we set up. Senior members of the platoon role-play in the camp as enemy and as the higher command, the trainees then report the 'movements of the enemy' to the 'command'," La Sage said.

"Finally on the fourth week we teach them how to shoot at Range 117, where we use known distances of up to 1,000 yards. After that, we train in unknown distances," La Sage said.

"After the training package is done the Marines are known as Professionally Instructed Gunmen and are on a six-month probation period in the platoon," he said.

A Marine sniper zeroes his M-40 sniper rifle at Ban Chan Khrem, Thailand, as part of a combined live-fire exercise during Cobra Gold 2000. (Photo by Cpl. Jeff Womack, USMC)

"During this time they may get the chance to attend the formal Scout Sniper School and upon completion are given the 8541 Military Occupational Specialty and the title Hunters of Gunmen," La Sage said.

"We take a lot of pride in our job. Much of our gear is aftermarket and we buy it ourselves" said Cpl. J. Eric Roblez, 21, of Anaheim, Calif., Scout Sniper Platoon.

"We make our own ghillie suits and have to repair or replace them after every stalk. It's very time consuming and you have to be dedicated, but it is worth it," he added.

2004 United States Marine Corps. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of

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