The Marine Scout Sniper school is the most elite military sniper school on earth. It is also one of the toughest special operations courses in the US Military.
Not only do the Army, Navy, and the Air Force send troops here, but foreign services like the Israelis and the British also trade students for the opportunity to earn the Marine Sniper designation.
One of the profiled students in this Discovery video was attached to the unit Business Insider also covered in Afghanistan in 2012. Not only did he supply the company with absurdly accurate intelligence on the enemy. He also took a couple of them out when the unit needed it most.
Those are the two primary missions of Marine Scout Snipers: Recon and targeted strikes on enemy personnel and equipment. They can be more devastating for enemy forces than a plane full of bombs.
This post was originally by Geoffrey Ingersoll and Robert Johnson
There are fewer than 300 active snipers in the US Marine Corps -- and only four Marine sniper schools including this one at Camp Pendleton, in California.
The 32 elite students who enter the course need almost perfect physical fitness (PT) scores, expert rifle qualifications, and superior intelligence test scores
For the next three months students build their 'ghillie' suits that actually become a living piece of camouflage made from plants native to the location.
The first big test is on the nose as much as it is the mind. Students drop down to the legendary Pig Pond.
The Pig Pond is a festering hollow of stagnant water and all manner of rotting vegetation. The Marines' boots pull up mud and slime that helps 'deaden' their new suits and keep light from reflecting off its surface.
Because they're Marines there's always reason to crank out push-ups while the whole crew screams. Here, they shout 'Scout .. Sniper' as they rise and fall.
Known distance, or the KD Range, pits Marines against targets ranging from 300, 500, and 1000 yards -- the better part of a mile.
In total, they will take 35 shots at stationary and moving targets. For the first time they will operate in pairs, with a shooter and a spotter.
Accuracy and precision are only part of the challenge. Scout snipers must operate under considerable strain and exhaustion. Students sprint with full gear in between stations and set up and shoot between ragged breaths.
Moving targets are toughest. Snipers need to lead, or shoot where the target will be when the bullet arrives -- while also factoring in wind, air density, and even the curvature of the earth.
Instructors give as much help as they can. But they are not allowed to 'spot' targets for the shooters. Everything must be done by the two-man team.
In the end, it's the shooter who is responsible for the shot. After the day's through, the target-pullers report scores over the radio to all the students. There's no hiding from a bad day's shooting.
Only the best shooters are kept on for the rest of the course. Now a few students lighter, the class heads to the next level of training: the stalking course.
With a fully ripened ghillie suit potential Scout Snipers are given three hours to advance several hundred yards towards a target -- while remaining totally undetected.
With a few final adjustments to their suits, the class takes off, each individually stalking the same target. Meanwhile a group of instructors is stationed in a truck, with binoculars, trying to find the snipers in the brush.
... so they send out a 'walker' guided via radio. The walker cannot give any indication if he sees the sniper.
At Pendleton, it's not just the instructors that stalkers have to beware of. Here, one student nearly crawls into a rattle snake.
Eventually, when they advance within a certain distance of their target, stalkers take a shot. If instructors still cannot find the student, he will take one more shot. Then instructors flip up cards. If he's close enough to be able to read one of the cards, the student passes the test.
PIGs will shoot at 10 targets of varying distance, using only a spotter and their scopes to judge distance.
Again the range is scored: 10 points for a hit on the first shot, 8 for hits on the second, none after that. A passing score is 88.
Students who pass do the traditional push-ups with their instructors, yelling, 'I ... made it ... I ... made it.'
The final test is one of endurance and sheer will. Because snipers train in teams, they have to take care of each other -- teams of 16 have to extract four 200 pound dummies.
The exercise simulates snipers caught deep in the field with an injured buddy. In all, the test spans 23 miles
Those who move too slowly must carry a 170 pound log which states simply, 'Suffer patiently ... patiently suffer' -- one of the Marine sniper mottoes.
Ragged, dirty, and exhausted, they top a hill at dawn and get into formation. Graduation commences on the spot.
Newly-minted HOGs are presented with a 'Hog's Tooth,' a single round with 550 nylon cord through it to wear around their neck. It's a memento scout snipers have worn since the school was established. These Marines have now joined the ranks of the world's deadliest combat snipers.
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