The Marine scout snipers are specialized, trained marksmen. Extensively trained in weapon systems, stalking, concealment and overall field skills, the Marines are able to adapt and run independently as small teams or while partnering with larger patrols.
The scout sniper team with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, puts all these unique skills to work while deployed to Trek Nawa, Afghanistan, a known insurgent hotbed between the Nawa and Marjah districts.
“I like the amount of independent operations we’re allowed to do,” said Sgt. Joshua Ott, team leader, scout sniper team, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6. “It allows me to exercise my creativity to get the mission accomplished.”
Trek Nawa’s dry and rocky terrain poses a unique challenge for Ott.
“We go through the basic schools and some of the advance schools, but we come out here and the environment and situation is different,” added Ott, from Ft. Meyers, Fla. “We have to take the concepts we learn and place real world spins on them. We have to adjust to the area we are in.”
The scout snipers learned insurgents would stay away from them while patrolling if the insurgents saw Marines carrying large sniper rifles. They have adjusted and now disguise their weapons as other things while patrolling.
“Ott is one of the smartest Marines I’ve met,” said Lance Cpl. Grant Ciffone, one of Ott’s slackmen.
Ciffone, from Greenwood, Calif., said Ott’s ability to remain calm, break down a situation clearly and make sound judgments sets Ott apart.
Ott also adjusted his team to train and incorporate Afghan National Army marksmen in their operations.
“Ott’s done a really good job adjusting and trying new things,” said Lance Cpl. Tucker Jones, another one of Ott’s slackmen. “Every time we go out on patrols and missions, we take ANA with us.”
Training the Afghan marksmen became an integral part of the scout snipers’ mission.
“We have formal training with the Afghans about once every two weeks,” said Jones, from Jacksonville, Fla.
Ott and his team trained ANA in basic marksmanship, land navigation and observation techniques.
“Our primary mission out here has been being partnering with the Afghan National Army and getting them ready to take over this country,” said Cpl. Jon-Paul Abatte, Ott’s assistant team leader.
Ott and Abatte took the lead in training the Afghan marksmen. They relied on hands-on training while out on missions, as well as formal classes on patrol bases.
“We are one of the few militaries that train scout snipers and not just snipers,” said Jones. “Observation is a big part of what we do. We spend a lot of time training. We are expected to be a lot better at field skills then your average infantryman.”
Ott and Abatte focused on the advanced field training and marksmanship to give the Afghans an edge against the insurgents.
Ott said the Afghans were eager to learn as much from the scout snipers as possible and were attentive and willing to try the new techniques he teaches them.
“Some of these guys are really good (with the basic marksmanship principles), and overall this is a good group of (ANA snipers),” Ott added. “This particular group is motivated. They really believe in what they are doing.”
The Afghan snipers impressed Ott when he noticed their discipline. He saw them practicing and training before operations and taking extra time to implement what the Marines taught them.
“You can tell they really care about Afghanistan,” added Abatte, from Houston. “That’s motivating to me, to know that when I leave there is still going to be someone taking over.
Article by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo, Regional Command Southwest