News: Hide sites: Scout snipers remain undetected
Story by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – In a combat zone, any hillside, vehicle or building could be used by a sniper to remain unseen even with constant enemy troop presence.
To prepare for their upcoming combat deployment, Marines with Scout Sniper Platoon, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, sharpened their field craftsmanship by building multiple variations of hide sites during Weapons and Tactics Instructor course here, Sept. 25 to 28.
A hide site is a structure that provides 360 degree concealment, maximum fields of observation and protection from weather. By building it with the surroundings of where the site is located, a Marine can remain undetected forward of friendly forces and provide reconnaissance, long-range precision fire and adjust indirect fire for days, or weeks, at a time.
“A scout sniper is a Marine highly skilled in field craft and marksmanship who delivers long-range precision fire on select targets from concealed positions in support of combat operations,” said Sgt. Louis Wood, the chief scout of the Scout Sniper Platoon. “Building hide sites is part of field craft. It’s part of being able to blend into any environment you operate in seamlessly so you’re not a shift in the baseline. We call that a target indicator, so it’s vital for a Marine in a Scout Sniper Platoon to have that skillset so they can go into any environment, blend in and operate undetected so they can observe a battlefield and stay alive.”
Hide sites are typically built during night after a long trek to a location with a full combat load and can take hours to construct. To build an optimal site, Marines may have to dig with a pickaxe and shovel to have a visually small hide from ground level. Hide sites can vary in structure and size depending on a Marine’s mission.
“Hides can vary from a two-man belly scratch to a permanent hide,” said Wood, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. “A belly scratch is basically two guys in minimal gear who only have a weapon, optic, radio, food and water. Then from that you can build anything up to a permanent hide where you can rotate teams through a week at a time with full combat loads.”
The goal of camouflaging a hide site is to blend into its background. To do this, hide sites are built from their surroundings.
“Any time you emplace a hide, you always need to be aware of 360 degrees around your position,” Wood said. “If you’re in a rocky environment, you’re going to want to look like rocks. You want to use whatever you have around your position to camouflage yourself and break up your outline.”
Lance Cpl. Ryan Pettis, a team leader with Scout Sniper Platoon, said the three things that will result in getting an individual or team compromised is shine, outline and contrast of background.
Every optic and piece of gear that contains shine is painted a camouflaged matte color to prevent shine. Marines must also prevent outlines around their hide because straight lines typically do not exist in nature. To break up straight lines, Marines place vegetation and other nearby objects on and around their hide site. To prevent a contrast of background, Marines camouflage their site to whatever is behind them.
Scout sniper teams can be tasked with multiple missions once they construct a hide site. One of the missions they can be tasked with is providing overwatch for an area. If there is a choke point, terrain feature or historical improvised explosive device strike in an area, they can observe the area for a given period of time prior to a convoy moving through and provide overwatch as they travel to see if enemy forces are trying to maneuver on U.S. servicemembers.
Teams can also be sent forward of friendly lines to gather reconnaissance. If troops are planning to move to an objective and the area between them and the objective is unknown, a scout sniper team can take pictures of the area and send them back to a ground commander to better prepare the servicemembers for their mission.
Pettis, a native of Colorado Springs, Colo., said Marines in a scout sniper platoon are relied on to be proficient not only in their job, but in all aspects of the infantry.
“We have to understand infantry tactics so we can better support from an observation point and so we understand what ground troops are doing below or in front of us.” Wood said. “We can also be used as forward observers who adjust indirect fire or call in close air support if needed.”
After constructing multiple hide sites over the course of a few days, the platoon is slated to put their skills to the test when they support company-sized attacks in the days ahead during WTI.
The battalion is slated to continue predeployment training before deploying to Afghanistan next spring.