KAJAKI, Afghanistan – From a small town kid hunting deer, to a Marine Corps Sniper engaging the enemy at 1600 meters, one Marine has found himself holding a Barrett .50 caliber Sniper Rifle.
At the age of 9, Cpl. Jacob Hoag, a mechanic with 1st Platoon, India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Corps Regiment, Regimental Combat 2, recalls fondly hunting with his father. He remembers making his first kill on a whitetail deer at the age of 11. Since then, he has found himself successfully killing other game such as bear and elk.
Now, when looking through the scope he is searching for a quite different target: Taliban.
Hoag graduated from Mountain View High School in the small town of Bend, Ore., and enlisted in the Marine Corps, Sept. 11, 2006, to become a motor transportation mechanic. Upon completion of military occupation specialty school, Hoag reported into his first duty station with India Battery, 3rd Bn., 12th Marines.
India Battery arrived in Afghanistan, May 7, with Hoag as their number two mechanic.
“[On] Aug. 8, I was the right hand man of Sgt. Saenz, who was the lead mechanic,” Hoag said. “However, after the tragedy of him being hit with an improvised explosive device, Aug. 9, I was prompted to step up and fill his shoes as maintenance chief.”
In the month of August, Hoag was asked to fill another crucial role. With his keen marksman abilities known by 3/12 leadership and his fellow, he was given the opportunity to become a shooter on a sniper team.
“Most snipers train their whole life,” said Hoag. “They put their body through hell so they can have that rifle, me, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
Hoag is known for setting the example as a non-commissioned officer ... He is also known for not only stepping up, but for gratefully filling in. Hoag understands that the title of sniper is not something that is given, but earned, as he strives to be the best at both his current jobs.
“He took this sniper job with a smile on his face and enthusiasm,” said Cpl. Cody Scholes, a field artillery cannon crewman and spotter for Hoag. “He is cool, calm and collected and was the right man for the job.”
After just over a week of practice, Hoag’s short amount of training was put to the test.
“Today we had rounds impacting right next to us and he just laid there and didn’t move,” said Scholes, from Belfast, N.Y. “That is one of his qualities of being a sniper, he always keeps his cool.”
Providing over watch for patrols in the area often results in Hoag providing security for patrols being engaged.
“I have engaged some at more than 1,500 meters,” said Hoag, “and I am getting better every time I go out.
“You know that phrase; ‘every Marine is a rifleman,’ well in my case that really stands true. I am a rifleman; I sit behind the gun and give it a slow steady squeeze.”
Although manning a .50-caliber sniper rifle seems like the dream job to most hunters, Hoag said it comes with pressure.
“Being a sniper definitely makes the fight more personal,” said Hoag. “You know you have the biggest scope out there and you know that when you have a guy in your crosshairs, you are about to take his life. You know that if this bullet finds its mark, it’s going to kill a man. It takes a little more to be able to do that, but I don’t have a problem with it. Everyone leans on you to make that shot.”
But if the others give him too much grief, Hoag just tells them these words.
“Come on guys, ease up, I am a mechanic and I am doing the best I can.”
Although is doing everything he can as a sniper, he has not ‘forgotten his day job.’ Hoag is still actively filling the billet of lead mechanic.
“I am still a mechanic and was working on a truck today, but I also was working on target acquisition with my spotter this evening,” said Hoag. “Now I do both and don’t put one in front of the other, because someone has to fix the trucks.”