Snipers are force multipliers. A well-placed shot can decapitate an enemy’s leadership and crumple morale. A well-taken photograph can pinpoint a high-value target and enable a direct-action operation. A well-hidden sniper can provide critical on-the-ground intelligence to commanders and save lives.
To be in a position to achieve the above, a war-fighter must first earn the coveted sniper title and complete an arduous selection and training process. The training differs from branch to branch. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps all have different criteria and requirements. High attrition rates are a testament to a course’s difficulty, which in turn reflects the specialized nature of a sniper. Now the Marine Corps is having trouble with attrition rates that are too high, and as a consequence, it doesn’t have enough scout snipers for the frontline units, so plans are in place to overhaul the whole scout sniper field.
According to the Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps is experimenting with the idea of a brand-new scout sniper military occupational specialty (MOS). It’s best described as a sandwich: A Marine would attend the initial portion of the scout sniper training, then get assigned to an operational unit, where he would get some on-the-job training and advice from more seasoned scout snipers before going back to the schoolhouse for the second portion of the course. Currently, scout snipers have the 0317 MOS. The new concept envisions two MOS (0315 and 0317). A Marine with the 0315 MOS would have the basic skills of a scout sniper, and a Marine with the 0317 MOS would have all the skills.
In 2017, the Marine Corps identified a critical shortage of scout snipers, which was jeopardizing the lethality of Marine combat units. Judging from the continuous experimentation, that shortage still exists, and the new approach is an attempt to remedy the lack of snipers.
According to the Marine Corps Times, at any given time, there are about 300 snipers serving in the Marine Corps. This number, however, must include instructors, because in 2018, there were only 150 Marines with the 0317 MOS, and in the last five years (from 2013 to 2018), only 226 Marines graduated from the scout sniper course and received the coveted 0317 MOS.
Only Marines holding the rank of lance corporal and above are eligible to attend scout sniper training. The Scout Sniper Basic Course is a 79-day class that teaches candidates the essential skills of snipers. For example: fieldcraft, stalking, marksmanship, and concealment. The course is held at the School of Infantry-West, Camp Pendleton, California; at the School of Infantry-East, Camp Geiger, North Carolina; and at the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia. Scout sniper Marines then have the opportunity to attend advanced sniper courses, which specialize in urban and high-angle sniper operations. There is also the Scout Snipers Team Leader Course, which teaches students to coordinate sniper platoons.