The Marine Corps is scrapping its scout sniper program and will soon house its snipers under reconnaissance, rather than infantry, battalions.
Instead of scout sniper platoons, infantry battalions will have scout platoons, a message sent to the fleet from the Corps’ Plans, Policies and Operations department on Tuesday said. The message called for the transition to happen immediately.
The message, first reported by Coffee or Die Magazine, said that scout sniper platoons didn’t provide battalion commanders with sufficient “continuous all-weather information gathering.”
The scout platoons are meant to “provide the commander with relevant, reliable, accurate and prompt information,” the message said.
“The shift to a Scout Platoon will allow those Marines to focus their training and evaluations on scouting, providing commanders the right tools to accomplish their mission,” Marine spokesman Capt. Ryan Bruce said in a statement to Marine Corps Times.
Bruce noted that infantry Marines will still have access to precision rifles as necessary.
The Marine Corps didn’t immediately respond to a Marine Corps Times request for information about what roles scout snipers will have and where they will be placed after the platoons disband.
Scout snipers have been part of the Marine Corps since World War II. They are trained not only in marksmanship but also in scouting, or reconnaissance.
They aren’t the only snipers in the Marine Corps; some reconnaissance Marines and Marine special operators are also trained as snipers.
The president of the USMC Scout Sniper Association wrote in a message to the association that he urged Berger to “reconsider this ill-advised policy decision.”
“It’s unlikely that any officer who commanded and employed Scout Snipers in combat agrees that removing a sniper capability from the infantry battalion makes sense,” retired Master Sgt. Tim Parkhurst wrote in the message.
Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger ordered the transition, according to the message. The move comes as part of Force Design 2030, the Marine Corps’ overhaul that called for a reorganization of infantry battalions and a doubling down on reconnaissance.
Separating the sniper role from infantry battalions is one aspect of the Force Design 2030 plan, which seeks to “divest the preponderance of weapon-specific military occupational specialties in the infantry battalions and build highly trained Marines who are capable of employing a range of weapons and equipment,” according to Bruce.
Scout platoons will be made up of 26 Marines: four teams of six infantry Marines, with a first lieutenant and a gunnery sergeant in charge. That’s larger than scout sniper platoons, which typically have 18 Marines.
The Marine Corps didn’t immediately provide the number of scout snipers currently serving.
In 2018, a Marine spokeswoman estimated the number at around 300. Thanks to shortfalls in the number of snipers, scout sniper platoons have in recent years consisted of lots of marksmen who undergo on-the-job training with help from fully trained scout snipers.
After fiscal year 2024, which ends in fall of that year, there won’t be any seats in the Scout Sniper Basic Course, according to the Plans, Policies and Operations email. The Marine Corps will still train snipers through the Reconnaissance Training Center and the Marine Raider Training Center, the message stated.
Marine snipers will bear a new 0322 military occupational specialty, designating reconnaissance snipers, rather than 0317; 0321 is the military occupational specialty for reconnaissance Marines.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.