The United States Marine Corps disbanded its elite and historic scout sniper program as part of its extensive revamp to adapt infantry battalions to future warfare.

The age-old MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) has been around since World War II, and one nonprofit organization representing the renowned Scout Snipers is calling the Corps move “misguided” and “ill-advised.” 

“We’re 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 USMC Scout Sniper Association wrote on Facebook.

A memo from Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policy, and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps, Lieutenant General David J. Furness, called for the “immediate transition of Scout Sniper Platoons to Scout Platoons” meaning that infantry battalions will no longer have sniper attachments, but instead scouts who will “provide the commander with relevant, reliable, accurate and prompt information.” 

Scout Snipers provide cover and observation during a boarding and seizure operation to retake the ship Magellan Star from suspected pirates on Sept. 9, 2010 in the Gulf of Aden.
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Marine Corps officials believe that the “newly designed Infantry companies were insufficient to offer the Battalion continuous all-weather information gathering,” and that the new Scout Platoons will be better utilized by leadership throughout the branch, according to the memo.

Instead of completely moving away from sniping, a new MOS “Reconnaissance Sniper” will be established “within the Reconnaissance Battalions.” 

The new Scout Platoons will consist of 26 Marines, a first lieutenant, and an infantry gunnery sergeant, which will be larger than the traditional Scout Sniper Platoons that are comprised of 18 Marines.

Scout Snipers are highly trained, precise marksmen, who provide support for ground combat operations and gather important intelligence for commands across the Marine Corps.

A United States Marine scout sniper and his spotter keep watch above a gate at the industrial park March 12, 2004 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A United States Marine scout sniper and his spotter keep watch above a gate at the industrial park on March 12, 2004, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
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Starting in the fiscal year of 2024, there will be “zero allocated seats” for the “Scout Sniper Basic Course.” 

“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 told the Marine Corps Times.

The memo also stated that designated marksmen — Marines that receive additional marksmanship training but are not snipers — will still remain within infantry companies, along with precision rifles.

The transition away from sniping was called out by the USMC Scout Sniper Association, which blamed “senior leadership” within the Corps for not giving the Scout Sniper Platoons the resources to meet the Marine Corps needs.

A Marine with Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, adjusts the scope of an M40 bolt-action sniper rifle during a weapons zeroing range at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on Sept. 3, 2015.
A Marine with Scout Sniper with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, adjusts the scope of an M40 bolt-action sniper rifle during a weapon zeroing at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on Sept. 3, 2015.
Cpl. Paul S. Martinez

“Rather than do away with Scout Snipers… perhaps our senior leadership should invest the little bit of time and effort it would take to better train, equip and organize the highly skilled and motivated Scout Snipers who are already giving their all in defense of our Nation,” the organization fired back at the memo on Facebook.

The abrupt and controversial change comes as part of the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 plan to restructure how the branch operates with the changing landscape of warfare.

“We urge the Commandant of the Marine Corps to reconsider this ill-advised policy decision,” USMC Scout Sniper Association wrote in a plea to reinstate the historic group.

“If you believe Scout Snipers are a valuable asset to our Marine Corps warfighting capability, then you should take whatever steps you can to place pressure on our Commandant, Gen David Berger, and his leadership team to rescind this message and do the right thing. You have representatives in Congress who want to hear from you.”

The critically acclaimed biographical film “Jarhead,” based on the best-selling 2003 novel of the same name, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Anthony Swofford — a Marine Scout Sniper — follows Swofford’s experience as a sniper during the Gulf War.