U.S. Marine Corps photo

Major Changes Coming for Marine Corps Snipers

Since the days of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock and his exploits in Vietnam, the image of Marine Corps Scout Snipers has struck fear in the hearts of America’s enemies.

Since the days of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock and his exploits in Vietnam, the image of Marine Corps Scout Snipers has struck fear in the hearts of America’s enemies.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

And for good reason.

The Corps has one of the most comprehensive — and toughest — training schools for its sniper teams, with a grueling curriculum of long-range shooting, covert reconnaissance and advanced camouflage.

And that’s the problem, Corps infantry leaders say.

Marine officials have confirmed that Commandant Gen. Robert Neller is considering a plan that would make being a Scout Sniper a primary military occupational specialty in the Marine Corps, a move infantry leaders say would help units better meet the increasing demand for these highly-skilled specialists.

A Marine spokesperson declined to comment on whether the Commandant would sign off on the changes but said the Corps is looking into how to improve its Scout Sniper cadre.

“The Marine Corps is currently assessing the best way to train and sustain its Scout Snipers,” Marine spokesperson 1st Lt. Danielle Phillips told WATM. “It’s important we are thorough in our review to determine the best way the Corps can improve this vital capability.”

Marine Scout Snipers play a key role in forward reconnaissance and observation for infantry battalions. Marine leaders say they can’t get enough of them the way the training is set up today. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

According to officers familiar with the process who spoke to We Are The Mighty on background, the way the Corps staffs its sniper platoons falls far short of the authorized goal of around 20 per platoon. One leader said on average a platoon has four trained snipers “if we’re lucky.”

Read More: This is what makes Marine Scout Snipers so deadly

“A lot of kids come to the sniper school not prepared or not fully qualified, so they fail out,” the infantry leader said. “So we’re just not able to maintain the number of snipers we need in a battalion.”

That’s why Neller was forwarded a plan to make the 0317 Scout Sniper MOS a primary one, in hopes that the Corps will do more to make sure enough of the sharpshooters get to the fleet where they’re needed.

“There’s a struggle to find Marines who have the time to train up and get to a ‘school level’ of success,” said a senior Marine sniper familiar with the MOS change proposal. “Right now it’s almost impossible.”

The senior Scout Sniper, who spoke on background to We Are The Mighty, said if the change is approved, a Marine who signed on as an 0317 would go through boot camp and the School of Infantry then would immediately be sent to a Basic Scout Sniper course. After that, the Marine would go back to the fleet to fill a Scout Sniper job in a platoon rather than leaving to chance the option of being pulled into another combat arms job.

If infantry leaders and senior Scout Snipers have their way, new Marines entering the Corps will have the option to enlist as an 0317 and go directly to sniper training after the School of Infantry. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Today, Marines who are selected for Scout Sniper have already completed one deployment and are approaching their end of active service, making it hard to keep snipers in the Corps even if they get the secondary MOS, the sniper leader said.

“There’s no way to make sure they stay in the sniper community,” he said.

As part of the change, the Corps is looking into modifying the Basic Scout Sniper course to focus more on the “scout” part of the training as opposed to shooting skills, the senior Marine leaders said.

Over the years, scout snipers have played an increasing role in reconnaissance and clandestine observation of targets where infantry leaders need “eyes on” key areas. Additionally, it’s been increasingly difficult to teach the advanced marksmanship skills that were once part of the basic sniper curriculum, contributing to the wash-out rates and making it harder for Marines to prepare for the sniper school.

The senior sniper said a lot of the advanced shooting techniques and other sniper-specific skills can be taught by senior NCOs once the new 0317 gets to his platoon. After a deployment in a sniper platoon, the Scout Sniper is better prepared for an advanced course and will help form a more seasoned cadre of leaders back at the platoon, he said.

But there are critics, senior Marine leaders acknowledge, particularly when it comes to the training changes.

“The old timers are pointing a bony finger at us and saying the new plan waters down sniper training,” the senior sniper said. “That’s an emotional response to how it used to be.”

“Nobody’s watering down what the Scout Sniper is and what he can do,” he added.

ByChristian Lowe
Feb 22, 2017 2:13:33 pm

Christian Lowe[Send Email]is a veteran military journalist and editor with nearly 20 years experience covering the U.S. armed forces. He has deployed six times to Iraq and Afghanistan and covered the military from the halls of Congress to the ranges of Fort Bragg.

Wikimedia Commons
Why the Huey Became a Symbol of Vietnam War

Over 7,000 Hueys were used in Vietnam, and 2,500 were lost during the war.

The Vietnam War’s icon was arguably the UH-1 helicopter. Officially designated the Iroquois (‘Huey’ is more of a term of endearment), this helicopter has been the most-produced in history, first flying in 1956 — that means it has just over six decades of service with the United States military!

Over 7,000 Hueys were used in Vietnam, and 2,500 were lost during the war.

According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the UH-1D had the ability to carry up to 16 passengers and crew.

The chopper could also carry just under 3,900 pounds of equipment in the cabin or 5,000 pounds in an external sling. It also could serve as a potent gunship, firing 70mm rockets, M60 machine guns in 7.62mm NATO, and M134 miniguns.

Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (U.S. Army photo)

The secret to the Huey’s success was a gas turbine engine that not only was able to perform at higher temperatures and in less-dense air than previous helicopters, but it was also much lighter than previous helicopter engines.

This allowed the Huey to be smaller (48-foot rotor diameter, 57 foot length) and lighter — making it fast (a top speed of 135 miles per hour) and maneuverable. It had a range of 315 miles, giving American troops the ability to strike hard and fast at a distance.

The chopper’s mobility meant that in a one-year tour, the average infantry soldier saw 240 days of combat. For some perspective, in the Pacific Theater during WWII, the average grunt saw 40 days over the nearly four years that conflict lasted.

helicopter, venom, USMC

U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Today, versions of the UH-1 are still in service with the Marine Corps (the UH-1Y Venom), the Air Force (UH-1N), and Navy (UH-1N). The Army’s last Huey mission was flown on Dec. 15, 2016. According to an Army release, the helicopter was handed off to the Louisiana State Police a week later.


History, YouTube
ByHarold Hutchison
Feb 24, 2017 12:51:52 pm

WATM contributor Harold Hutchison was consulting senior editor at Soldier of Fortune magazine and is the author of the novel Strike Group Reagan. He has also written for the Daily Caller, National Review, Patriot Post, Strategypage.com, and other national web sites.

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