FORWARD OPERATING BASE HANSON, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - Stealthy, methodical and deadly -- these traits have come to symbolize the Marine sniper community and what scouts/snipers have come to survive by. These traits also enable the Marines to accomplish their mission proficiently, save Marines’ lives, and eliminate enemy threats.
Few people realize what the Sniper Platoon with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, has accomplished in northern Marjah. The platoon has provided critical support to the battalion by providing long-range fire on enemy targets, collecting information, and observing the battlefield, all while fighting through several harrowing encounters along the way.
Sanford, N.C., native Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Moore, a scout with the Sniper Platoon, vividly recalled one such encounter.
"We were [attached] to ‘Fox’ Company and left the morning of March 14 before the sun came up,” Moore said. “We couldn't get to our main hiding spot so we went to our secondary [site].”
After being in their positions for a few hours, one of the groups was compromised by a man wandering in the field. He ran away after seeing two Marine snipers hidden in the tall grass. Coincidentally, he stumbled upon a second team and fell to the ground clutching his chest, according to Moore. The man ran to tell others of what he saw after a few minutes of lying on the ground trying to compose himself.
Since the Marines had been compromised, they pulled back to an abandoned compound to wait until nightfall so they could return to safety. While waiting, the Marines were engaged by a small insurgent force that required the Marines to react quickly.
“One of our guys was watching the north wall and said there were two guys running toward the wall carrying something in their hands,” Moore said. “Those two guys threw grenades over the wall before we could intervene. One hit me in the back, rolled in between me and my buddy, and I picked it up and threw it back outside. It went off in midair. The second one didn't go off.”
Moore said they looked at each other in surprise and knew what they had to do next—fight off the insurgents.
He recalled they started returning fire immediately. Three Marines were injured: one was hit in the abdomen, but kept firing steadily at the enemy; one was hit with a fragmentation grenade; and the other was hit with a piece of shrapnel in the ankle, which caused it to break.
Moore said the injured Marine with the broken ankle had so much adrenaline rushing through him that he was able to assist his fellow injured Marines get out of the kill zone and into cover inside the compound. He also recalled carrying one of the Marines to the helicopter that was evacuating the casualties.
“After we called in support, we started tending to our wounded and returned fire until the insurgents started pulling out,” Moore explained. “When the [Quick Reaction Force] arrived, [the insurgents] completely left. Even though one of the Marine’s ankles was broken, he still helped carry the injured to the helicopter to be evacuated."
Lancaster, Ohio, native Staff Sgt. Anthony Friesner, the 2/8 Sniper Platoon commander, proudly recounted the incident’s conclusion. He said the doctor stated if the Marines hadn’t applied their combat life saving skills, two of the three injured Marines wouldn’t have made it.
"Once the wounded Marines got to [the hospital] the [head medical doctor] said two of the Marines shouldn't have made it, but because of the way the situation was handled and how my Marines operated, they saved their lives,” Friesner said.
Even though the squad was compromised, they were able to repel an enemy attack, eliminated the immediate threat, and accomplish the mission of the infantry battalion, despite being the smallest sniper platoon Friesner has ever served with.
"We have performed six named operations," said Friesner. "Those missions have all gone successfully and made dramatic changes that even a regular squad might have trouble with. My Marines did it and did it well."
The Marines in 2/8’s Sniper Platoon are now setting their sights on future missions. They lay and wait, ready for the next insurgent to step into their crosshairs.
(Editor’s note: The battalion is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 1, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.)