MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolinia — Sweat dripped from the faces of 16 tired Marines as they sprinted through the streets of Camp Lejeune carrying 45 pounds on their backs during a baseline physical assessment Oct. 20.
Once the group reached their destination they dropped their packs and proceeded to exert their energy through max sets of crunches, push-ups and pull-ups, for three minutes each, before once again donning the weighted packs and heading toward the finish line.
The Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, volunteered to see if they have what it takes to become part of the small, elite scout sniper community during a two-week scout sniper platoon screener on base. The volunteers have to be top-notch infantry Marines with first-class Physical Fitness Test and Combat Fitness Test scores, expert rifle scores and basic swim qualifications.
"Who I've seen answer the call so far, are very capable, confident and hungry young men," said 1st Lt. Thomas Dioguardi, 3/6 Scout Sniper Platoon commander. "We're looking for the best to be in what is, in essence, the best infantry platoon and the most proficient platoon in the battalion, by requirement."
The first day of the screener consists of a back-to-back PFT and CFT, and an interview with the platoon commander. The entire screener is both physically and mentally challenging, combining physical training, classes and field time in order to prepare the candidates for the Scout Sniper Basic Course, where they have to overcome many similar obstacles.
"Something that I've talked to my platoon about, my leaders about and the candidates who have come out is how you have to attack your weaknesses," Dioguardi said. "You have to recognize your weaknesses, attack your weaknesses and then crush your weaknesses. We look for individuals who refuse to quit on themselves, but more importantly refuse to quit on each other."
The sniper platoon is a reconnaissance and intelligence gathering asset that acts as the "eyes and ears" for the battalion commander and is made of leaders who are not only proficient in their primary military occupational specialties, but also as scout snipers. The platoon, which consists of only nine snipers to date, is slated to deploy with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2017 and is looking for new junior Marine leaders that will be able to mature with the platoon.
"I volunteered for the opportunity to become a scout sniper because I wanted to be a part of a brotherhood," said Lance Cpl. Calvin Sawyers, an infantryman from 3/6 and a screener candidate. "This is a challenge for me, both mentally and physically, but I feel that if I can make it here mentally, then I can make it anywhere mentally."