MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Drenched in sweat and stomachs growling, Marines serving with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, tested their bodies limitations during a scout sniper screener here, Jan. 8.
“We aim to get the top ten percent of infantrymen in the battalion who really want to be scout snipers,” said Sgt. Emmanuel Velayo, the chief scout of scout sniper platoon, 1st Bn., 4th Marines.
The screener consists of various training exercises and performance evaluations including fitness tests, academic tests and land navigation over a period of four days with just a couple hours rest between days.
“It is easy to get a first-class physical fitness test score and qualify as an expert on the rifle range. Not everyone can operate under the sleep, food and water deprivation that all scout snipers have to go through,” said Velayo, a native of Achorage, Alaska.
To become a scout sniper, a Marine must first obtain the military occupational specialty of 0311, rifleman.
After becoming a rifleman, a Marine can then volunteer to participate in a scout sniper screener in order to be accepted into a scout sniper platoon. The requirements to be able to volunteer for a screener are an expert rifle qualification and a first-class physical fitness score.
"Screeners let us evaluate the candidates and see if they are going to fit with the platoon," said Cpl. Kyle Janssen, a scout sniper serving with 1st Bn., 4th Marines. "It shows us if individuals are teachable, can teach other Marines and are able to lead their peer group, which is one of the toughest things to do."
Once Marines complete a scout sniper screener, they are interviewed and evaluated again before being selected to join the platoon.
"Once we choose the Marines we want to join the platoon, we’re going to teach them everything they need to know to go to combat," said Lance Cpl. Ryan Grob, a scout sniper serving with 1st Bn., 4th Marines, and a native of Livermore, Calif. "We need to get them ready for our next deployment. Anything could happen and we need them to be ready for whatever situation we get thrown in our hands."
According to the Marines in the sniper platoon, a scout sniper is a Marine who is highly skilled and knowledgeable in marksmanship and field craft.
"Out in the field a scout sniper needs to know everything," said Janssen, a native of Emmetsburg, Iowa. "You need to know not just your own job, you need to know a rifleman’s, machine gunner’s, mortarman’s, assaultman’s, anti-tank missleman’s and field radio operator’s job."
A Marine can be attached to a scout sniper platoon anywhere from a couple months to a couple years before being sent to Scout Sniper Basic Course. A platoon commander will choose to send a Marine to the school only when they are sure that a Marine is ready.
Scout Sniper Basic Course is 12 weeks long and has an attrition rate of around 60 percent. Marines train in known distance shooting, unknown distance shooting, stalking and field craft skills throughout the course.
"Having the opportunity to go to sniper school was a very big honor," Janssen said. "If you're not on top of your game the whole time, you're not going to make it.”
He said Marine scout snipers must be able to train to their physical and mental limits and must strive for perfection.
"Not being satisfied with the average is what will make Marines successful in anything they do," Janssen added.