How PIGs Become HOGs — A Visual Journey in Marine Corps Scout Sniper Training

Scout Sniper School

A U.S. Marine assigned to the Scout Sniper School, Weapons Training Battalion, looks through the scope of his rifle during a final exercise aboard Quantico, Va., Jan. 19, 2017. The course provides Marines and other services with Scout Sniper training in preparation for duty as a Scout Sniper within a Scout Sniper Platoon of an infantry battalion, reconnaissance unit and Marine Special Operations Unit. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton

A U.S. Marine assigned to the Scout Sniper School, Weapons Training Battalion, looks through the scope of his rifle during a final exercise aboard Quantico, Va., Jan. 19, 2017. The course provides Marines and other services with Scout Sniper training in preparation for duty as a Scout Sniper within a Scout Sniper Platoon of an infantry battalion, reconnaissance unit and Marine Special Operations Unit. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton

Marine Corps scout snipers are legendary for their tactical proficiency, physical and mental toughness, and extraordinary abilities as reconnaissance and surveillance professionals and force multipliers on the battlefield.

Intelligence, extreme discipline, and precision with a rifle are vital core competencies, and the path to joining the proud fraternity of Marine scout snipers starts in the Scout Sniper Basic Course. Those who attempt the course are called PIGs, or Professionally Instructed Gunmen, and those who have what it takes to make it through the rigorous training and graduate earn the elite moniker “HOG,” or Hunter of Gunmen.

Most people will never know what it takes to get through the course, but at least we mere mortals can take a visual journey through the often hellish training while sipping coffee and scrolling online. Now top off that cup of joe and check out this photo essay. And for those of you who immediately run out to the nearest recruiting station to enlist, make sure you tell your recruiter to thank us. We accept fine liquor and beer as respectable gifts.

Marine Corps Basic Scout Sniper Course

A student in the Scout Sniper Basic Course listens to a brief during stalking training. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

A student in the Basic Sniper Course listens to a brief during stalking training. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ethan E. Rocke

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Students in the Scout Sniper Basic Course aboard Camp Pendleton move to firing positions during known-distance marksmanship training. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

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A Marine sights in on a target on a known-distance range during the Marine Corps Scout Sniper Basic Course at Camp Pendleton. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

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Students sight in on targets on a known-distance range during the Marine Corps Scout Sniper Basic Course aboard Camp Pendleton. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

Marine Corps Basic Scout Sniper Course

Students sight in on targets on a known-distance range during the Marine Corps Scout Sniper Basic Course aboard Camp Pendleton. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

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Students in the Scout Sniper Basic Course aboard Camp Pendleton train in the “PIG Pond,” a murky slough where course instructors take students to break in their ghillie suits. The intent is to saturate the suits’ burlap with the natural elements and increase the quality of the suits’ camouflage. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

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A student in the Scout Sniper Basic Course in the “PIG Pond.” Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

Marine Corps Basic Scout Sniper Course

“Why did the water just get warmer?” — this guy during PIG Pond training, probably. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

Marine Corps Basic Scout Sniper Course

Students in the Scout Sniper Basic Course continue to break in their ghillie suits after immersion in the “PIG Pond” aboard Camp Pendleton. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

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Students in the Scout Sniper Basic Course participate in physical training while breaking in their ghillie suits after immersion in the “PIG Pond” aboard Camp Pendleton. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

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Students in the Scout Sniper Basic Course wait to be hosed down after PIG Pond training aboard Camp Pendleton. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

Marine Corps Basic Scout Sniper Course

A student in the Scout Sniper Basic Course gets a hose-down after ghillie suit training in the PIG Pond. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

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A student in the Scout Sniper Basic Course enjoys a hose-down after ghillie suit training in the PIG Pond. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

Ethan E. Rocke is a contributor and former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. Born in Los Angeles and raised in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills, Ethan is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning photographer and filmmaker. He served as an infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division, deploying once to Kosovo for peacekeeping operations. After leaving the Army, he joined the US Marine Corps as a “storyteller of Marines,” serving in Okinawa and the Asia-Pacific region with III Marine Expeditionary Force and at the Marine Corps Motion Picture and Television Liaison Office in Los Angeles, where he served as a consultant on dozens of television shows and documentaries and several feature films. His work has been published in Maxim Magazine, American Legion Magazine and many others. He is co-author of The Last Punisher: A SEAL Team THREE Sniper’s True Account of the Battle of Ramadi.”
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