JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii — Dew from shoulder-high grass and sweat soaked the uniforms of Marine and Navy SEAL scout sniper students’ as they stalked through humid foliage at a training area near the inactive shipyard of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Feb. 9.
This was their first test in stalking human prey since starting the nine-week Scout Sniper School at School of Infantry — West, Detachment Hawaii.
“This will teach them camouflage and sniper moving techniques,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Sicard, chief scout sniper instructor for the school. “The students are learning to move up to a final firing position, undetected, by blending in with their surroundings.”
The students’ surroundings were a sea of tall and dense grass, dotted with trees that concealed numerous holes, ditches and muddy slopes.
These stalking and concealment techniques aren’t just limited to this terrain.
“The camouflage techniques that they use here stalking, they can use in all environment because the same principles apply anywhere,” said Sgt. Joseph Sicard, a scout sniper instructor at the Hawaii detachment.
The snipers’ objective was to use these techniques to get within 300 yards of two observers stationed on a flat bed truck with binoculars and tripods. The observers tried to spot the shooters before they could move from their start point, about a half-mile away, to their final shooting position.
If an observer noticed excessive movement, he would radio to an instructor in the field the word “freeze.” This notifies all snipers that the observers may have found one of them. The observer has three chances to guide an observer to where he thinks the shooter might be. If he fails, the observers radio back “free to move” and the snipers can continue to close on their target.
If a sniper can fire one shot undetected, they get a passing score of 70. But after a shot the observer gets another chance to find the shooter. If the observer fails to find his would-be killer the second time, the shooter gets a perfect score.
Lance Cpl. Terry Rydberg, Scout Sniper Platoon, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, was the first to shooter to fire and finished the stalk with a perfect score.
“I just found a great position inside of a ditch with good shading, making it hard for the observers to see me,” he said. “I sighted in, but it took me about 30 minutes to [see past] the brush. Then I took my shot.”
Some students didn’t do as well.
Snipers detected before or while in their final firing position didn’t get a passing score and had to bear crawl from their position to the safety vehicle next to the observers. Passing shooters were allowed to run to the vehicle.
“This is their first stalk, so everything we’re seeing now is typical of the first day,” Standridge said. “They’ll learn more and do better as they finish more stalks.”
To pass second phase, a student must have at least two perfect scores and have an average score of 70 by the end of the phase.
After stalks, the students move on to their third and final phase. Which focuses on communicating with radios during missions, making hides (long-term concealment positions) and patrolling.