These Marine snipers disappeared right in front of us, vanishing into a field as top sharpshooters hunted for them

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. SkeltonA U.S. Marine assigned to the Scout Sniper School, Weapons Training Battalion, looks through the scope of his rifle during a final exercise aboard Quantico, Va., Jan. 19, 2017.
  • An expert US Marine scout sniper, no matter how precise their marksmanship, has to be able to do two things: hide and move stealthily.
  • Insider recently visited Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia and observed stalking training, an exercise where snipers in training attempt to slip past instructors undetected.
  • During the training, we watched about a dozen snipers vanish into a field. We wouldn’t see them, most of them anyway, again for about half an hour.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

US military snipers have a talent for hiding in plain sight, a talent developed through high-stakes games of hide-and-seek known as stalking exercises.

Insider recently had the opportunity to observe Marine Corps snipers during concealment training on a stalking lane at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

Searching for snipers through a scopeRyan Pickrell/Business InsiderA view of the stalking lane through a high-powered monocular optic used to hunt snipers who slip an expose themselves.

We watched Marine sharpshooters disappear into a field while their instructors hunted them with high-powered optics. Their mission was to slip into position and put two shots on a target without being detected.

This was a daunting task for those in training given that some of the instructors “on glass” searching for them were seasoned combat veterans.


The snipers were given 10 minutes to “veg up,” a term for the customisation of their ghillie suits using vegetation, at a “veg” site roughly 1,000 yards from their target.

Ryan Pickrell/InsiderThree Marine snipers entering the stalking lane in various veg states.

Every Marine who participated in the training completed the veg process in his own way, each trying to find the best way to make sure he would be invisible in the grasses of the stalking lane.

Ryan Pickrell/InsiderA clear shot of a sniper’s customised ghillie suit as he moves through the grass.

As they entered the lane at a defilade position out of the line of sight of the instructors, the snipers would tie a bag with their rifle, clippers, and a few other pieces of gear to their leg and drag it along the ground, giving them more freedom of movement in the field.

Ryan Pickrell/InsiderA view of a sniper, almost invisible even though he is less than 10 feet away, dragging his rifle and other gear through the grass.

The snipers started their assault in a low crouch.

Ryan Pickrell/InsiderA Marine sniper in a low crouch on the stalking lane.

Moving towards the first hill, the other side of which was exposed to the “enemy,” that low crouch got lower, eventually evolving into a crawl.

Ryan Pickrell/InsiderA Marine sniper in a deep crouch that will eventually become a slow, steady crawl to a forward firing position.

They moved slowly, cautiously, making a concentrated effort to blend into the negative space. As one instructor explained, the idea is not to be the bush. What snipers want to do is to become the space between the bushes.

Ryan Pickrell/InsiderTwo Marine snipers that appear to be moving toward the edge of the stalking lane. One of the instructors told Insider that snipers often prefer sticking closer to the tree line for added security.

It took over half an hour for the snipers to cover the relatively short distance across the field, set up a forward firing position, and take their shots. A trained sniper doesn’t charge into the breach. It’s a careful, strategic game of life or death.

Ryan Pickrell/InsiderA Marine sniper making his way through the grass toward his objective.

Finding these guys was no easy task, but during the training some made mistakes, exposing their position. While embarrassing in training, these tough lessons help these troops avoid learning a much harder lesson on the battlefield.

Ryan Pickrell/Business InsiderThere’s at least two snipers in here. They suddenly dropped into a low crawl as Insider was taking the picture. Insider has no idea where they went.

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