Marine Corps Designated Marksmen

Marines Secure U.S. Embassy In Baghdad
A U.S. Marine stands post at a guard tower outside the American Embassy February 5, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq. John Moore / Getty Images

In the early days of the Marine Corps, leathernecks were recruited to sit atop high masts on U.S. Naval vessels to pick-off enemies during ship-to-ship battles with their muzzle-loaded muskets of yesterday. This tradition of skilled marksmanship still lives today, through Marines around the globe as designated marksmen to protect others.

Designated marksmen currently sit in sandbag bunkers on the rooftop of U.S. Embassies around the world, guarding the lives of Marines, U.S. State Department workers and others who live and work on the embassy grounds.

The designated marksmen look over the compound with a watchful eye, searching for anything out of the ordinary. With their binoculars, scope and scouting scope attached to their rifle, the Marines also watch the streets surrounding the embassy for any possible terrorists who may threaten the lives of those inside the compound.

"Our job is very important," said Cpl. Brandon Price, Lewiston, Idaho, native and designated marksman for Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-terrorism), assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. "We provide overhead fire support with accuracy to the Marines on post at ground level."

Only a select few Marines are chosen by their command to be designated marksmen, Price said. Marines who maintain a high first-class physical fitness test score, a high rifle qualification score, and show potential to excel as a marksman, are chosen.

During preparatory training, Marines are selected to become designated marksmen and receive a month-long school at 4th MEB (AT) Headquarters in Camp Lejeune, N.C. While on post atop the embassy roof, the skilled riflemen constantly scan the area in and around the embassy compound. They are trained to spot any suspicious activity or persons and to call the Combat Operations Center to let them know of the situation.

The Marines continue to watch the suspicious individual until they leave the area. If the person displays any hostile intent toward the embassy the designated marksmen take the proper necessary action, even if that means using their rifle. If the marksmen feel the activity is not important they will just make a mental note and continue to watch the area.

"We have binoculars and a lot of times we can see the situation a lot better than the Marines on the ground," Price said. " We have a better overview of the whole compound and can easily see over the compound walls."While on post, a designated marksman is not alone. He receives the help of a spotter, said Lance Cpl. George Hatchcock, Millbrook, Ala., native and spotter for 3rd Bn., 6th Marines.

"The scope on the rifle limits the shooter's view," Hatchcock said. "The spotter can look around with binoculars and guide the marksman to a target."

When darkness falls, one might think the marksman's job gets tougher, but according to Price, it gets a little easier.

"At night, ?normal? people aren?t out, so if you see somebody on the street, he is probably looking for trouble," Price said. "Sound also seems to travel better at night, so if you have trouble seeing, you can follow the sound to the potential threat."

The 3/6 designated marksmen have been in Kabul with their unit for 30 days. This is Price?s second time serving as a designated marksman here. He was at the embassy in October 2002, and the atmosphere around the embassy has changed a lot.

"Last time I was here there was a lot more activity on the streets," Price said. "Things have settled down since then. I think the local Afghan people know we mean business. You don't see people walking near the embassy with weapons anymore like they used to on a daily basis."

While Price was on post during his last tour, he recalls when a rocket-propelled grenade whizzed by over the roof.

"The rocket was so close the Marines in another post could smell the sulfur," Price said. "We heard the rocket fly by and explode in the distance. The building is a pretty big target and for them not to hit us almost seems like they didn't want to, but to just give us a scare."

Though things are much quieter now, the Marines still remain focused and ready to react at a moment's notice.

Price is currently training the designated marksmen from Lima Co., 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 4th MEB (AT), who will take over on post when his unit leaves to return home to Camp Lejeune.

Cpl. Rusty Cuthbertson, Lincolnton, N.C., native is one of many designated marksman from 3/2 who will take over when 3/6 leaves. He said he is still in awe of the new surroundings? looks, but is anxious to fulfill his duties as a designated marksman.

"It's great to be out of Lejeune and to finally be able to put to use what we have been practicing for months," Cuthbertson said.

Above information courtesy of United States Marine Corps