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End of Marine Scout Sniper Program

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Once again, the Scout Snipers are on the chopping block. If this is the first time you’re hearing it, don’t worry; we’ll break down the fact and fiction of this controversial decision.

To begin, this is not an original or unique decision. Marine Corps Scout snipers were disbanded after World War I, World War II and Vietnam. After each war came to its conclusion, the belief was that snipers would not hold their relevance in future engagements. As evidenced by this decision being reversed multiple times, that belief was proven incorrect. At the end of the day, it’s hard to keep a good dog down, and even harder a devil dog.

On to modern day. As part of Force Design 2030, along with dropping tanks and other units, Scout Snipers will no longer be trained as of fiscal year 2024. The general intent is to maintain the Scout platoons themselves, consisting of 26 Marines, but as there is not yet an independent Scout School, there is no clarity on what that future holds. 

As the shift occurs, rather than having specialized, specifically trained Marines, they will be trained to be a jack of all trades, becoming more of commandos in nature. This may seem to some as good initiative, bad judgment.

While the term every Marine a rifleman has been around for a long time, any Marine worth his salty cammies would disagree. That is not to say that specialized military occupational specialties aren’t a value added to the overall combat mission, but there is a vast divide between a Marine specially trained in advanced sniper skills, and one who attends a two-week course and is sent back to a line company.

I mention the last because this is the current directive; to maintain some capability in the field by training up Designed Marksmen. This is valuable training, to be sure, but not an effective replacement for the likes of Carlos Hathcock. In his day, Gunnery Sergeant Hathcock, also known as White Feather, had 93 confirmed kills as well as hundreds of unconfirmed ones. That level of proficiency cannot be gained in a two week class. 

To be fair, school trained snipers aren’t going away; sniper schools will still turn out the world’s finest marksmen. Only the Scout Snipers will be affected by this change. But that won’t fix another serious issue… retention.

Within the discussion there is the issue of maintaining Scout Snipers in the first place. Often seen as a secondary responsibility by leadership, many Marines claim higher lacks the appropriate respect for the skill level and training involved in maintaining such a specialized occupation. Speaking frankly, several Scout Snipers have stated that their peers leave to go to MARSOC or specialized Army units in order to do the job they signed up for. 

It remains to be seen if this change is maintained or the course changed, but I leave you with this statement.

A senior Scout Sniper said "I think a lot of senior commanders don't really understand the full capability that a sniper brings to them. Snipers can't be mass-produced," he continued. "They're trying to mass-produce capabilities and cutting corners, thinking that numbers on a spreadsheet is what will win wars. But it's not; all it's going to do is fill body bags."

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