The Marine Corps’ decision to eliminate scout snipers – elite marksmen who have been unique to the Corps since World War II – has been denounced as “misguided” and “ill-advised” by a nonprofit organization that advocates for scout snipers.
Scout snipers work in pairs of “spotters” and “shooters” to both kill distant enemies and gather intelligence from concealed positions – two missions that are not usually combined. The position is one of the most renowned in the Marine Corps, but is set to be phased out amid a broader reorganization of the branch.
In a post on Facebook, the USMC Scout Sniper Association urged the Corps to “reconsider this ill-advised policy decision” and “invest the little bit of time and effort it would take to better train, equip and organize” its scout snipers.
READ MORE: A look inside the first 2 weeks of US Marine Corps Scout Sniper training
Describing scout snipers as “a tremendously cost-efficient force multiplier,” the organization said it was “shocked and saddened that our Marine Corps leadership seems to have forgotten the lessons learned in combat, paid for with the blood of our members.”
The organization said nixing scout snipers was “the misguided result” of the job having “always been treated as an afterthought,” and also resulted from “a lack of professional education for officers.”
An internal military memo from Feb. 23 announced the end of scout snipers as part of a wider overhaul called Force Design 2030. The explanation in the memo was that the scouting capabilities of newly-redesigned infantry companies were insufficient for “continuous all-weather information gathering,” according to testing and experiments.
READ MORE: HD Footage: See how US Marine Scout Snipers practice their aim
A new type of scout platoon was ordered to be created – in reconnaissance battalions rather than infantry battalions, Stars and Stripes reported. Spokesperson Capt. Ryan Bruce highlighted that infantry will still have “precision rifle capability,” and the Corps “will continue to maintain school-trained snipers” in reconnaissance and special operations units.
In an open letter to members, Scout Sniper Association president Tim Parkhurst questioned the reasoning for the change.
“Replacing an 18-man Scout Sniper Platoon with a 26-man Scout Platoon will not solve the ‘all weather information gathering’ problem,” he wrote. “Retaining the skill set and the combat capability of Scout Snipers by offering a viable career path to Scout Snipers and providing them with more engaged leadership might.”