MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Surrounded by expansive rifle ranges and large structures, sits an almost insignificantly small building on Weapons Training Battalion aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. Only the words, “Scout Sniper” on the building’s sign hints at the value of the building where long-range marksmen learn their difficult trade.
One of cubicles in the shop belongs to Sgt. David Mortensen, who by appearances may seem to be just another Marine, but the value of his drive and dedication was recently acknowledged as he received the first Marine Corps Scout Sniper Instructor of the Year Award from the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper Association on Jan. 14, 2014, in a ceremony in Las Vegas.
“He is a very knowledgeable, respected individual in the Marine Corps scout sniper community with invaluable combat experience,” said Sgt. Augusto Zapata, acquaintance of Mortensen for 2 1/2 years. “He is respected for his accomplishments as a Marine sniper and as an instructor here.”
Mortensen, an upstate New York native, has been serving his country since 2004 in the Marine Corps reserve and active duty statuses and has held the military occupational specialties of rifleman and scout sniper.
In addition to serving tours at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Marine Corps Base Quantico, the instructor also deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The deployments were definitely career highlights, said Mortensen. Graduating sniper school and becoming an instructor were also highlights.
Since May 2011, Mortensen has served at Quantico, one of the four Marine Corps’ sniper schools, as an instructor leading other Marines through the various challenges of the course, which according to the Weapons Training Battalion website include: individual day and night land navigation; qualifying on stationary and moving targets from 300-1,000 yards; small-unit patrolling techniques; camouflage; ghillie suit construction; concealments, hide sites, and individual movement; field sketching; observation and surveillance skills; memory exercises; and combat tracking.
“Starting this year, [this award is given] to identify and recognize key leaders and those within the MOS who carry the load,” said Jason Mann, president of the Marine Corps Scout Sniper Association. “All three board members [consisting of active and retired scout snipers] unanimously selected Sgt. Mortensen.”
Gunnery Sgt. Gerald Gavin, the staff noncommissioned officer-in–charge of the scout sniper instructor school at Quantico, nominated Mortensen for the award.
“[One of the things] that sets him apart is his personal drive to enhance himself as an individual through college online or striving to go to other courses in the Marine Corps,” said Gavin. “We have a very diverse demographic we teach, and it takes a very strong disciplined instructor to communicate effectively to everyone from junior Marines to senior Marines.”
Completing Basic Airborne and Foreign Weapons Instructor Courses, plus college courses and being selected as the Instructor of the Quarter in October of 2013, are just a few of the ways Mortensen has shown his drive for excellence.
“He is very humble, respectful and a very straight up, responsible, upstanding [person],” said Zapata.
Just like the humble building he works in, the sergeant doesn’t post his accolades or place himself in lofty positions, but is honored to receive the accolades and spreads the applause to others.
The award reflects all of the Quantico instructors’ accomplishments, said Mortensen. Without them, there wouldn’t be a shop for me to work in.