A recent training message has announced a new “proof of concept” course for snipers that has required cancelling or delaying three scout sniper courses this year and could make a new MOS for the sharpshooter community.
The training message, posted recently on social media, announces that the personnel from School of Infantry-West and the Basic Reconnaissance Course primer will be reallocated to the 0315 proof of concept course.
Two scout sniper courses at SOI-West have been cancelled as a result, one moved to Weapons Training Battalion. At WTBN, an advanced scout sniper training course has been shifted to later in the year to accommodate the shift.
Personnel will conduct the 0315 course from Feb. 10, 2020, through April 19, 2020, at SOI-W, according to the message.
Marine Corps Times reached out to Marine public affairs office staff who could not immediately respond to specific questions about the changes.
The Marine Corps has faced serious challenges to getting Marines through the scout sniper school in recent years and faced shortfalls in the needed numbers of snipers in the ranks.
In 2017, Marine Corps Times reported that the Corps faced a “critical gap” due to high washout ranges at sniper school. At the time, officials said they were looking at changes to how snipers were trained.
Between 2013 and mid-2018, the Corps only produced 226 snipers.
Typically, there are an estimated 300 snipers in the Corps, Caylen Wojcik, a former Marine sniper, told Marine Corps Times in 2018.
Last year only 150 sergeants and below held the 0317 scout sniper MOS.
The schools used to average 100 attendees. But as recently as 2017, only 42 students attended the courses. Seventy-seven Marines had attended by mid-2018.
At the time, Marine Corps officials said that they had a “sufficient inventory” of scout snipers to meet its operational requirements and accomplish its mission.
Sea Dragon experiments that test Marine kit and squad configurations led to recommendations to grow the sniper community, despite the difficulty meeting existing numbers.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller rejected that idea last year after initially looking to add eight snipers to the battalion scout sniper platoons, upping to a potential 28 snipers for each infantry battalion.
Neller has since said that long range precisions fires in every squad will be available with the fielding of the M38 rifle, a marksman version of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.
Graduation rates were down significantly in the years preceding that statement. From 2012 to 2017, the trends showed less than half of Marines made it through the course.
“The significant causes of attrition in the course are in practical application evaluations, which includes stalking, marksmanship and land navigation,” Training Command wrote in a statement to Marine Corps Times in 2017. "The eligibility requirements and training requirements have not been made more difficult.”
In early 2017, the Corps began experimenting with breaking up training into two parts and putting Marines into an operational unit between them.
Until then, snipers did a single training program to completion.
The idea, an official told Marine Corps Times in 2017, was to give snipers basic skills they needed to join their unit. Then they would apprentice under seasoned scout snipers in their operational units before returning to complete training.
Each battalion selects infantry Marines at the rank of lance corporal and above for sniper training. That training is held at School of Infantry-East at Camp Geiger, North Carolina; School of Infantry-West at Camp Pendleton, California; and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.