A shot is fired. A small cloud of dust kicks up. Seconds later, the ping of a bullet hitting a steel target 800 meters away is heard. “Hit,” says the spotter. The shooter pulls back the bolt of the suppressed M40A6 rifle and sends a new round into the chamber, ready to fire again.
This is one of hundreds of repetitions every time the scout sniper platoon with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit gets the chance to train. However, it is not only the scout snipers who take part in this precision cycle.
Aspiring scout snipers make up the majority of the scout sniper platoon, working alongside the scout snipers to accomplish the mission.
Comprised of infantry Marines from across the infantry battalion who have been carefully selected based on marksmanship, physical and mental strength, among other factors, the aspiring 0317s (scout snipers) are a critical asset to the success of the platoon.
One benefit to the snipers coming from across the infantry battalion is that they often have existing relationships with the other Marines on the ground who they are working in support of.
“The aspiring scout snipers and scout snipers have similar jobs on paper, however, the scout snipers have the advantage of the formal training that they get at the scout sniper schools and all of the experience that comes with it,” said a Marine assigned to the scout sniper platoon. “Once we go out as a platoon though, everyone gets the same training and we all work side-by-side.”
In order to become an 0317, Marines must be trained in the sniper platoon before attending the Military Occupation Specialty producing school.
The 0317s from the Battalion Landing Team have all successfully completed the requirements for scout sniper basic course, including mountain sniper course, urban sniper course and aerial sniper course as well. The platoon sergeant for the scout sniper platoon also served as the chief instructor at the basic scout sniper course.
“Most Marines who are aspiring scout snipers are selected through a screening program where they are put through a series of mental and physical tests to see if they have what it takes,” the Marine said. “There is a lot of classroom time where they teach you the basics, and then they send you out to the field to test your skills as an infantryman, as well as throw you into new situations to see how you will react.”
While the vast majority of non-scout snipers with the unit are infantry Marines, Navy Corpsmen and communication Marines are also trained and fully integrated into the unit.
Much of the time as an aspiring 0317 is spent trying to absorb the knowledge and experience of the scout snipers.
“The scout snipers won’t be in the platoon forever,” the Marine said. “Just like you have new Marines coming into a line company that need to be mentored and developed, aspiring scout snipers are mentored and developed by the scout snipers to hopefully go on and become scout snipers.”
Since the 26th MEU’s deployment has begun, the sniper platoon has gotten the chance to train side-by-side in Israel, Djibouti and Jordan, refining their skills more and more with each exercise.
“We’ve had some great opportunities to train since we’ve been deployed and the aspiring scout snipers have been able to get better and better with each exercise,” the Marine said. “The aspiring scout snipers are the future of the sniper community, and this training helps us make sure that we’re ready, should we get the opportunity to someday become a scout sniper.”