One of the most selective positions in the U.S. military is that of the sniper. Snipers are sharpshooters given the task of picking off enemies from a long distance--the motto is "One Shot,-One Kill." Snipers in both the Army and the Marine Corps, the two main branches employing them, must be male. They shoot a modified Model 700 Remington bolt-action repeating rifle. Most Army snipers shoot an M24, while snipers in the Marines use an M40.
Snipers are formally trained in both the Army and the Marines. While some members of these branches, as well the other branches of service, may be called upon to be sharpshooters, only those who have completed sniper school can be considered true snipers. In order to attend sniper school, prospective snipers must meet a number of criteria and then be nominated to attend the course by their commanding officer.
Before they begin school, snipers must meet a number of physical requirements. Snipers must have 20/20 vision or vision that is correctable to 20/20 and have normal color vision (not color blind). In the Army, snipers must score 70 percent or better on each area of the Army Physical Fitness Test. In the Marines, snipers must get a first-class score on the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test, receiving 80 percent or better on all tests.
Both Army and Marines snipers must score 110 or better on the General Technical portion of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. All snipers must be graded as expert marksmen with the M-16. In the Army, a sniper must have had no major disciplinary action taken against them during their time in the service; in the Marines, a sniper must have had a clean record for the previous six months. In the Army, snipers must be between the grade of E3 and E7, although this requirement can be waived. In the Marines, snipers must be between E2 and E7. Aspiring snipers must also pass a psychological evaluation.
Army snipers attend Sniper School at Fort Benning, Ga., while Marines snipers attend Scout Sniper school at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The Army sniper school lasts five weeks, while the Marine Corps course lasts 10 weeks. Both schools cover shooting techniques, camouflage and stalking an enemy. Dropout and failure rates are high.
After completing the required schooling, snipers will be placed with a combat unit, working either as a sniper or a counter-sniper. Sniping is not a rank, but an assignment. Therefore, if a sniper fails to perform as expected, he can be transferred to a position in which he does not perform this function.
Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.