As part of an extensive revamp to adapt infantry battalions to future conflict, the United States Marine Corps disbanded its elite and historic scout sniper program.
The age-old MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) has existed since World War II, and one nonprofit representing the legendary Scout Snipers calls the Corps action “misguided” and “ill-advised.”
“We’re shocked and saddened that our Marine Corps leadership seems to have forgotten the lessons learned in combat, paid for with the blood of our members,” the USMC Scout Sniper Association wrote on Facebook.
A memo from Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policy, and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps, Lieutenant General David J. Furness, called for the “immediate transition of Scout Sniper Platoons to Scout Platoons” meaning that infantry battalions will no longer have sniper attachments, but instead scouts who will “provide the commander with relevant, reliable, accurate and prompt information.”
Marine Corps officials believe that the “newly designed Infantry companies were insufficient to offer the Battalion continuous all-weather information gathering,” and that the new Scout Platoons will be better utilized by leadership throughout the branch, according to the memo.
Instead of abandoning sniping entirely, a new MOS called “Reconnaissance Sniper” will be established “within the Reconnaissance Battalions.”
The new Scout Platoons will have 26 Marines, a first lieutenant, and an infantry gunnery sergeant, making them larger than the traditional Scout Sniper Platoons, which have 18 Marines.
Scout Snipers are highly trained, precise marksmen who support ground combat operations and acquire vital intelligence for Marine Corps headquarters.
Starting in the fiscal year of 2024, there will be “zero allocated seats” for the “Scout Sniper Basic Course.”
“The shift to a Scout Platoon will allow those Marines to focus their training and evaluations on scouting, providing commanders the right tools to accomplish their mission,” Marine spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce told the Marine Corps Times.
The document also indicated that designated marksmen — Marines who receive advanced marksmanship training but are not snipers — and precision rifles will remain inside infantry companies.
The transition away from sniping was called out by the USMC Scout Sniper Association, which blamed “senior leadership” within the Corps for not giving the Scout Sniper Platoons the resources to meet the Marine Corps needs.
“Rather than do away with Scout Snipers… perhaps our senior leadership should invest the little bit of time and effort it would take to better train, equip and organize the highly skilled and motivated Scout Snipers who are already giving their all in defense of our Nation,” the organization fired back at the memo on Facebook.
The abrupt and contentious adjustment is part of the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 initiative to revamp how the branch works in the changing battlefield.
“We urge the Commandant of the Marine Corps to reconsider this ill-advised policy decision,” USMC Scout Sniper Association wrote in a plea to reinstate the historic group.
“If you believe Scout Snipers are a valuable asset to our Marine Corps warfighting capability, then you should take whatever steps you can to place pressure on our Commandant, Gen David Berger, and his leadership team to rescind this message and do the right thing. You have representatives in Congress who want to hear from you.”
Based on the best-selling 2003 novel of the same name, “Jarhead,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Anthony Swofford — a Marine Scout Sniper — chronicles Swofford’s experience as a sniper during the Gulf War.