MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- Every Marine is a rifleman. Regardless of age, gender or military occupational specialty, every Marine is trained to operate the M16-A2 service rifle. The best of the best. At 13 weeks in length, Marine Corps boot camp is recognized as one of the world’s most intense basic training programs. One shot, one kill. Simply put, Marines are just that good; it should only take one round. Though universally true for all Marines, for the scout sniper, these phrases take on a whole new meaning.
Just to be eligible for a shot at joining this elite group, Marines are required to have an infantry MOS, a first class physical fitness test and an expert rifle qualification score. So when a military policeman not only made it through the 10 weeks of training, but beat out more than 20 other highly trained grunts in the process, the question that immediately comes to mind is – how?
With an overall average of 93.7 percent (compared to the class average of 85 percent), Sgt. Dain K. Doughty, an MP with the base provost marshal’s office, recently graduated from the Scout Sniper Basic Course aboard Camp Geiger as the 2-06 class honorman.
“My only goal was to pass,” said Doughty. “Not being an 03, I was grateful just to have the opportunity.”
Although this was his first and only time attending the course, Doughty is by no means a beginner; his job on the base Special Reaction Team gives him plenty of practice with the M40A1 sniper rifle.
“SRT is basically the military version of the [Special Weapons and Tactics] team,” said Doughty. “Our mission is to respond to any high risk situations. It’s like recon for MPs; more of a challenge.”
Doughty’s motivation for attending the course was the prospect of fine tuning his skills, which would in turn make him more capable of saving lives.
“I wanted to be a scout sniper for the same reason I joined the Marine Corps in the first place, to be one of the few and the proud,” said Doughty.
Normally, however, Marines without an infantry MOS aren’t permitted to take this course.
“Historically, the attrition rate for this course is about 50 percent,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brannon S. Westall, the staff noncommissioned officer for the Scout Sniper Basic Course. “Being an 03 is one of the prerequisites because there’s really no need for a sniper in units other than the infantry. A sniper is nothing more than infantry Marine with specialized training.”
But ever since Gunnery Sgt. William C. Barnes, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the base SRT, graduated from the very same course in 1995, he and the Scout Sniper school have had an “understanding.”
“I made a deal with the school’s chief instructor that as long as SRT Marines continued to pass, he would keep one seat available for us in each class,” said Barnes. “And not one of our guys has failed yet.”
Barnes attributes this fact to making sure his guys are more than ready for what lies ahead.
“We don’t just throw someone into each class to fill the seat,” said Barnes. “They can only attend the course if we’re 99.9 percent sure they’re going to pass. Sgt. Doughty started training eight months prior to get ready.”
Throughout the course, students are constantly being evaluated on their proficiency in land navigation, field sketches, range estimation, etc. Of the numerous graded events, three in particular are among the most contested: marksmanship, academics and stalking.
“In the stalking portion, you have three hours to move within 200 meters of two highly trained observers and set up a shooting position,” explained Doughty. “These guys can spot a leaf turned upside down from a mile away, so you’ve really got to focus on blending in with your environment.”
Exceeding his own initial expectations, Doughty not only passed the course, he excelled in every aspect of it. In recognition for taking all three graded events and, subsequently, becoming the class honorman, Doughty was awarded with his second a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
“I was really surprised when I heard Sgt. Doughty was the honorman,” said Barnes. “As far as I know, an 03 has always taken it. To go out there and do what he did shows a lot on his part and how hard he worked to improve himself beyond what little we taught him.”
Despite passing the course, earning the title of class honorman and getting a medal, Doughty’s most memorable moment of the whole experience was when his instructors presented him with a piece of 550 cord adorned with a 7.62mm bullet.
“Getting a NAM was nice, but the goal from the start was simply to become a scout sniper,” said Doughty. “Receiving the [Hunter of Gunman] tooth necklace at graduation was all that I needed. It’s a scout sniper thing.”