One-eyed sniper remains deadly as ever
Submitted by: MCB Camp Pendleton
Story by: Computed Name: Lance Cpl. Antonio Rosas
Story Identification #: 2005728133053
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.(July 28, 2005) -- Besides a steady hand, a keen eye is one of a scout sniper's most valuable assets.
For the one-eyed sniper (who asked that his name be withheld), it's his only one after a wound sustained in Iraq.
The sniper, whose job it is to take out enemy fighters with pinpoint accuracy, possesses only one eye — although the "handicap" has hardly hindered him during the eight-week scout snipers course.
A right-hander, he graduated at the top of his class — despite having to shoot left-handed to adapt to his visual casualty.
“Even before I joined the Marine Corps, I knew that I wanted to be a scout sniper,” he said, with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, adding that he wanted to “set up a strong foundation as a rifleman” before assuming his new role.
The sniper, who had been trained right-handed as a rifleman, had to start from scratch upon arriving at the course and train his left eye to take aim.
He had already passed through the course twice — when he had both eyes — and failed.
“We knew who he was and we had heard that he had been wounded in Iraq. We thought it was over for him,” said Sgt. Owen E. Mulder, 24, from Worthington, Minn., a primary marksmanship instructor at scout sniper school.
Mulder was assigned to work one on one with the sniper to make him a left-handed shooter.
“To tell you the truth, he actually didn’t need much help at all,” Mulder said about the sniper, the honor graduate for his section. “He had a really positive attitude, and by the third day of shooting, I was able to back off and observe his progress.”
The sniper already had spent more than a year with a sniper platoon before the course. Meanwhile, he says he picked up extensive battlefield knowledge in Iraq with the platoon.
He gleaned most of it in Fallujah, where he lost the use of his right eye in October of 2003.
A 122 mm rocket landed within 15 feet of their position, blasting him several yards through the air.
He described that fateful day.
“My first reaction was to seek cover immediately. I knew there would be more incoming fire. I scrambled to and began wondering where everyone else was. Within seconds, I figured out I was hit and the pain shot through both of my eyes. The more I kept my left eye open, the stronger the pain was,” he said.
After being evacuated to Baghdad, the sniper wanted straight answers from the doctors who treated him.
“I was more concerned about staying in the fight than I was of the vision in my right eye,” he said.
The sniper was ultimately transported stateside, where he began pondering whether he would finally become a sniper and shed the “pig” moniker.
In the sniper community, a “pig” is a Marine attached to a sniper platoon who has learned on the job but hasn’t attended the course.
A “hog” is a full-fledged sniper who has received the military operational specialty and obtained the “hog’s tooth” — the .762 mm round fired from the M40A1 sniper rifle and worn around the neck of snipers.
“The hardest thing to learn in this MOS was learning how to be a team leader and mission planning,” he said.
The two-time OIF veteran also received the highest stalking score in his class. Stalking, one of the more challenging portions of the course with a high failure rate, requires students to set up an observation position up to 1,000 meters away from the intended target and carefully inch their way within 200 meters to build a final firing position.
The students dress up in “ghillie” suits, which resemble large clumps of grass, while brandishing their sniper rifles under the scrutinizing eyes of instructors.
If their position is detected, they have failed that portion of the course.
But he triumphed — and earned increasing admiration from his peers in the process.
“He is by far the most positive Marine I’ve ever met,” said Lance Cpl. James M. Cotrell, 31, from Oren, Utah, a scout sniper. “Not even the doctors believed he could continue as a sniper. He re-enlisted just to prove he could do it. Having one eye would not stop him.”