The US Marine Corps’ first F-35C squadron is now fully ready to fight from the Navy’s aircraft carriers

Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 fly F-35Cs
Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 fly F-35Cs.

  • The first Marine Corps F-35C squadron has achieved full operational capability.
  • This status means the squadron is fully prepared and equipped for deployment and combat.
  • The F-35C is specifically built for aircraft carrier operations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The first US Marine Corps F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron has achieved full operational capability, meaning it is now fully prepared to wage war from Navy aircraft carriers, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing said in a statement last week.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, nicknamed the “Black Knights,” is the first Marine Corps F-35C squadron to reach this status.

The Marines have traditionally flown the F-35B, a short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant that can fight from airstrips or amphibious assault ships. Although the F-35B has not yet achieved full operational capability, this jet has been active.

The F-35B deployed for the very first time in March 2018 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, and later that year, a Marine Corps F-35B became the first to fly into combat when it took off from the USS Essex to carry out strikes against the Taliban.

Marines with the service's first F-35C squadron conducting flight training
Marines with the service’s first F-35C squadron conducting training.

The C variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter, however, is designed to operate aboard US Navy carriers. The jet can carry more fuel and is built for catapult launches and fly-in arrestments.

Based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California, the “Black Knights” received the Marine Corps’ first F-35Cs on January 21, 2020.

In December, the squadron successfully met the minimum requirements to deploy aboard carriers and support combat operations, a status known as initial operational capability. At that point, the fighter squadron was technically considered officially ready for combat.

That initial operational capability enabled “VMFA-314 to deploy the F-35C onto aircraft carriers where they will be able to support combat operations anywhere in the world,” the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing said at the time.

“They are now full up round and bring the incredible 5th generation capability to 3rd MAW,” 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general Maj. Gen. Christopher Mahoney said in a statement, adding that “they will deploy as part of a Carrier Strike Group next year.”

A Marine Corps F-35C assigned to VMFA-314
A Marine Corps F-35C assigned to VMFA-314.

VMFA-314 operations officer Maj. Derek Heinz said “many hours were spent maintaining aircraft, launching and recovering aircraft in Miramar, at other military facilities, and aboard the ship to conduct the training required to meet these goals.”

“The Marines of VMFA-314 have gained confidence in fighting this aircraft and feel confident we can do so in combat if called upon,” Heinz added.

In the meantime, the squadron is continuing to make necessary preparations for future deployments through tailored ship’s training availability, which includes communication, medical, flight, and shipboard drills.

The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing is the Corp’s largest aircraft wing, and, as the recent statement on VMFA-314’s full operational capability milestone explained, it “remains combat-ready, deployable on short notice, and lethal when called into action.”

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Marines put assault amphibious vehicles back in the water for the first time since one sank and killed 9 service members

Marines aboard an amphibious assault vehicle
Marines aboard an amphibious assault vehicle.

  • The Marine Corps is putting AAVs back in the water for the first time since a deadly accident.
  • Last summer, eight Marines and a Navy sailor drowned when an AAV sank off of California.
  • Water operations were halted as the Corps looked into the failures that caused the accident.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Marine Corps put an assault amphibious vehicle back in the water this week for the first time since one sank last summer, killing nine service members, Marine Corps officials told Insider Thursday.

Last July, an AAV assigned to Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, sank off the coast of California as it returned to the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset from San Clemente Island.

The mishap vehicle was carrying three AAV crewmembers, 12 Marines, and one Navy corpsman. Eight embarked Marines and the Navy sailor died, making this incident the deadliest AAV training accident in the vehicle’s history.

“Out of precaution, before we understand what caused this, we are pausing the waterborne operations for amtracs,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said the day after the accident, as the Corps was still searching for the bodies of the deceased, considered only missing at that point.

A recently released investigation into this tragic disaster revealed it was preventable. The accident was caused by a series of human and mechanical failures. Specifically, the vehicle was improperly maintained, training was inadequate, and critical safety procedures were not followed.

Responsibility for the deadly accident was placed on leaders across the chain of command, from the 15th MEU commander down to the vehicle commander. Disciplinary action has already been taken against some unit commanders.

Marines drive an AAV into the water during training at Camp Pendleton, California.

This week, after an eight-and-a-half-month pause, AAVs again started splashing, but with conditions, Corps officials said.

Last Friday, the Marines published requirements for the resumption of AAV waterborne operations, Marine Corps spokesperson Capt. Andrew Wood told Insider on Thursday.

No movement between Navy ships and shore is permitted, and shore-to-shore movement over water is only permitted once a unit has completed 18 tasks.

Wood said that the tasks “cover a variety of requirements from ensuring training and qualifications for crew and embarked personnel, personnel are properly equipped, vehicles have passed required inspections, and operations are conducted with safety boats, sea state assessments, and positive communication.”

For instance, everyone riding in an AAV has to have completed the full underwater-egress training program, to include training on the Waterborne Egress Capability breathing bottles.

As Insider previously reported, the supplemental emergency breathing devices are being put back in the vehicles after they were removed in 2015 to cut costs. All embarking personnel must be equipped with these devices.

These requirements also apply to the new amphibious combat vehicles that are being introduced as replacements for the AAVs that first entered service in the 1970s.

At the moment, the California-based 1st Marine Division is believed to be the only unit to have met the requirements, division spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz told Insider. She said the first AAVs splashed Tuesday.

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US troops had to use their phones as flashlights to try to escape a sinking assault amphibious vehicle that killed 9 of them

Marines aboard an amphibious assault vehicle
Marines aboard an assault amphibious vehicle.

  • The Marine Corps has released the investigation into the AAV that sank and killed nine last summer.
  • The investigation shows that failure after failure led to tragedy.
  • At one point, troops used phones to open the escape hatch because the emergency lights were out.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) accident last summer that killed nine service members was a disaster, one in which failure after failure led to tragedy, a newly-released investigation has revealed.

A lot of things went wrong. At one point, just minutes before the vehicle sank, troops on board were using their cell phones as flashlights to try and open one of the escape hatches because the emergency lighting system wasn’t working. That was just one of many problems the investigation found.

An AAV is a heavy fully-tracked amphibious landing vehicle commonly known as an “amtrac” or “track” that transports as many as two dozen troops between ships at sea and shore.

Last July, an AAV assigned to Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, sank off the coast of California as it returned to the amphibious transport dock USS Somerset from San Clemente Island.

The mishap vehicle was carrying three AAV crewmembers, 12 Marines, and one Navy corpsman. Eight embarked Marines and the Navy sailor died, making this incident the deadliest AAV training accident in the vehicle’s history.

In the aftermath, the Marine Corps grounded its entire fleet of AAVs as it launched an investigation into exactly what happened. Waterborne operations have yet to resume.

The commander of US Marine Corps Pacific blamed the sinking and the resulting deaths on “a confluence of human and mechanical failures” in a statement attached to the investigation. He added that “this tragic mishap was preventable.”

Marines board an amphibious assault vehicle
Marines board an assault amphibious vehicle.

‘Human and mechanical failures’

The command investigation found that the accident was caused by maintenance failures, delayed evacuation orders, and a failure to properly train embarked personnel on AAV safety procedures, among other issues.

As the 26-ton amphibious vehicle returned to the Somerset following a shore exercise on July 30, water was leaking into the hull of the AAV from multiple locations. All AAVs leak, but more water than normal was leaking in due to various maintenance failings.

Around 5:30 p.m. local time, the rear crewman informed the vehicle commander that the water inside the AAV had reached the deck plate. The commander is said to have replied: “Thanks for letting me know.”

Standard operating procedure is that embarked personnel prepare for water operations when water hits the deck plate. Evacuation should begin when water reaches boot ankle level, but that did not happen and the results were fatal.

In addition to multiple watertight integrity failures, the vehicle also suffered several other serious mechanical failures, from the transmission to the generator, which impacted the four bilge pumps in place to push water out of the vehicle. The communications system was also affected.

When water hit boot ankle level, the vehicle commander began waving the November flag, a blue and white banner signaling that a waterborne vehicle is in distress and in need of immediate assistance, but no order to evacuate was given, the investigation said.

As for the embarked personnel who were riding in the back, the investigation said that they “were not trained appropriately and did not realize how dire the situation was … when the water was at boot ankle level.”

Not only did they not receive a proper safety briefing prior to waterborne operations, but the investigation also found that many of the embarked troops had not completed the necessary training to know how to exit the vehicle in an emergency.

The commander waved the blue and white distress flag for 20 minutes but did not make use of the pyrotechnic signaling options available.

Due to a miscommunication, there were no safety boats nor support AAVs in the water at the time of the accident, though two other AAVs did eventually maneuver to assist.

By around 6:05 p.m., water in the AAV was about calf-high, and the rear crewman was recommending evacuation to the vehicle commander. The order to open the starboard cargo hatch and start evacuation did not come until water hit the bench seats.

Troops in the back moved to open the cargo hatch on top, but things did not go smoothly due to a lack of training and decreased visibility. It was “extremely dark” inside the AAV.

The command investigation said that the “embarked personnel were using personal cell phones as a lighting source due to the Emergency Egress Lighting System not functioning and the fact that no chemical lights had been used to mark the hatch handles.” The EELS had been inexplicably disabled.

By the time they got the hatch open and started getting people out, the AAV was only about six inches out of the water, leaving it extremely vulnerable. Making matters worse, an assisting AAV ran into the mishap vehicle, knocking it sideways.

When a wave washed over the struggling AAV, water came pouring in through the open hatch, flooding the vehicle.

Some troops were standing on the bench seats that run along the inside of the vehicle when “the force of the water rushing in knocked all personnel off their feet,” leaving troops inside shocked and disoriented, the investigation said.

Minutes later, around 6:15 p.m., the vehicle, which had been sinking slowly for about 45 minutes, tilted up and slipped beneath the surface, plunging to a depth of 385 feet.

All but one service member made it out of the AAV, but seven troops who made it out drowned before reaching the surface. One service member made it to the surface but died of drowning injuries.

The command investigation said that all of the deceased service members were wearing body armor. Some troops appear to have tried to remove their gear, but the life preserver negatively impacted those efforts.

For those that never made it to the surface, the life preservers were less effective at depth, especially given the excess weight troops were carrying.

The service members who died when their vehicle sank last summer were Lance Cpl. Guillermo Perez, Pfc. Bryan Baltierra, Lance Cpl. Marco Barranco, Pfc. Evan Bath, Pfc. Jack Ryan Ostrovsky, Cpl. Wesley Rodd, Lance Cpl. Chase Sweetwood, and Cpl. Cesar Villanueva, and Hospitalman Christopher Gnem.

The Marine Corps said in a statement Thursday that their loss continues to be felt across the service.

Marines aboard amphibious assault vehicle prepare for an amphibious assault.
Marines aboard amphibious assault vehicle prepare for an amphibious assault.

‘Tragic mishap was preventable’

The I Marine Expeditionary Force commander said in a statement that “this entire mishap could have been averted and lives saved if the vehicle commander had followed [standard operating procedures] and ordered the embarked personnel to take off their gear and evacuate the mishap AAV at the appropriate time.”

But, there were problems at other levels as well. He noted that at the platoon level “discipline and combat effectiveness were seriously compromised.”

The Marine Corps has already removed the senior commanders of BLT 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and the 15th MEU. The commander of Bravo Company has also been fired. Unspecified disciplinary action has also been recommended for some others in the chain of command.

In the wake of the deadly accident last summer, the Corps adjusted the inspection standards for its AAVs. It also halted all AAV waterborne operations until the entire fleet of roughly 800 vehicles could be inspected. The investigation said that “a majority of the AAVs failed to meet the new inspection criteria.”

The AAV that sank and killed eight Marines and a sailor was not the only vehicle that encountered troubles during last summer’s training exercise.

A little over a dozen AAVs were involved in the training. One had to be left on the ship because it was inoperable, another had to be picked up from San Clemente Island by a Landing Craft Air Cushion after it malfunctioned, and one lost the ability to maneuver and had to be towed back to the island.

An inspection of the participating vehicles after the accident found that most were in “poor condition.”

One Marine veteran Insider spoke to previously about the problems with AAVs said that the vehicles “are death traps and need to be updated if not completely eradicated from the Marine Corps.”

Marine Corps officials insist the vehicles are safe as long as procedures are properly followed.

The Corps is in the process of phasing out its AAVs and replacing them with the new Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV). The service is also making dozens of changes to the way it maintains and operates amphibious vehicles to make sure that nothing like what happened last summer happens again.

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This legendary Marine sniper made the Corps’ longest known kill shot more than 50 years ago with a machine gun

carlos hathcock marine sniper
Carlos Hathcock taking aim in Vietnam.

  • Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock holds the Marine Corps record for the longest confirmed sniper kill shot.
  • The late Marine sniper set the record in 1967 with a M-2 .50 caliber Browning machine gun.
  • With 93 confirmed kills, Hathcock is one of the deadliest snipers in the Corps’ history.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A Marine sniper killed an enemy soldier 1.4 miles away in 1967 with a .50 caliber Browning machine gun. To this day, it remains the Corps’ longest confirmed sniper kill shot.

The tales of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock’s exploits in the jungles of Vietnam are legendary. With 93 confirmed kills and around 300 unconfirmed, he is one of the deadliest Marine Corps snipers in history.

The enemy gave Hathcock the nickname Long Tra’ng du K’ich, “White Feather Sniper,” because he notoriously hunted with a white feather tucked into the band of his bush hat.

Hathcock learned of the nickname after the Viet Cong put out a hit on him, offering to pay handsomely any soldier who killed Long Tra’ng and his commanding officer, Capt. Jim Land. The bounty on each of their heads was three years officer’s pay.

Many snipers tried to best Hathcock and claim their prize, but none succeeded. There were some close calls though.

One enemy sharpshooter came dangerously close to killing Hathcock in an intense battle near the firebase at Hill 55. In the final moments of the fight, the two snipers had each other in their sights, each man ready to end the other’s life, but Hathcock was faster on the trigger. He put a bullet clean through the man’s scope, killing him instantly.

Carlos Hathcock
Carlos Hathcock

‘The longest-reaching sniper weapon’

And that was far from Hathcock’s only outstanding shot. During the war, Hathcock also set a US military record for the longest confirmed sniper kill shot. That record held for almost four decades.

From a hill in Duc Pho, Hathcock shot an enemy in the head at 2,500 yards with an M-2 .50 caliber machine gun known as “Ma Deuce,” Charles Henderson wrote in “Marine Sniper,” his novelized biography of Hathcock.

“This is the longest-reaching sniper weapon, the M-2 .50 caliber machine gun,” Land, Hathcock’s CO, told a group of war reporters at one point, according to Henderson. He said the weapon was “effective out to three thousand yards,” well beyond Hathcock’s Winchester Model 70 .30-06 caliber rifle.

Marine snipers could equip the Browning machine gun with either a Unertl Optical Company or Lyman Gunsight Corporation eight-power scope, the same ones the snipers put on their rifles, and provide “a battalion commander the benefit of extra long-range sniper fire,” Land said.

Hathcock’s longest confirmed kill shot before he was sent to Duc Pho for combat operations in early 1967, was at less than 1,200 yards, Henderson, a former Marine sniper, wrote in the follow-on book “Silent Warrior.”

Use of the M-2 machine gun as a sniper weapon began during the Korean War and continued during the Vietnam War.

While the Marine Corps still uses heavy machine guns, its snipers generally do not. “Scout Sniper platoons are not equipped with these assets in their internal sections but have the ability to request or utilize them if the mission requires,” the Corps told Insider.

“In the formal Scout Sniper curriculum, Marines are only trained on the prescribed Scout Sniper Rifles that are organic to their units’ table of equipment,” it said.

The Scout Sniper community does not officially keep records ranking its confirmed kills by distance, though the Marine Corps was able to confirm for Insider that Hathcock still holds the service’s record for the longest confirmed sniper kill shot.

As for why it does not keep official records, the Corps said that “close range or long range is little concern to Scout Snipers as long as an enemy combatant is neutralized.”

Hathcock, who helped build and shape the modern Marine Corps Scout Sniper program with his former commanding officer, Land, and others, held a similar view, considering numbers and records largely meaningless.

Carlos Hathcock Marine Sniper
A commanding general presents the Silver Star to Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock

‘A meaningful thing about numbers’

For many years, Hathcock was thought to have the most confirmed kills of any Marine Corps sniper. It is actually Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney, but even when it was believed to be Hathcock, that never mattered to him, according to Henderson.

During a discussion about his kill count, Hathcock once told a fellow Marine that “you can take those numbers and give ’em to someone who gives a damn about ’em.”

“It’s my job,” he said. “If I don’t get those bastards, then they’re gonna kill a lot of these kids dressed up like Marines. That’s the way I look at it.”

Hathcock is probably the Marine Corps’ most famous sniper, but his success was not measured simply in bodies or yards. Hathcock prided himself on doing his job well, not ending the lives of as many as 400 enemy troops.

“You would have to be crazy to enjoy killing,” he often said, according to Henderson. “I never enjoyed it. It was my job. It was important that I did it well.”

The sniper said that “if there was a meaningful thing about numbers, it would have been the number of lives I saved. Not the number I took.”

Although the Vietnam War did not end until the mid-1970s, it ended for Hathcock in 1969 after he suffered severe burns across most of his body while pulling Marines from a burning troop carrier that struck a mine.

Hathcock, his body on fire as he did it, saved the lives of seven of his fellow Marines. For his heroism, he eventually received the Silver Star.

Hathcock’s 2,500-yard shot in Vietnam is among the top seven longest known sniper kill shots worldwide and is the second longest in the US military.

His record for the longest confirmed kill shot by a US military sniper was broken by a US Army Ranger in 2004, roughly five years after he died of multiple sclerosis.

The disease, together with his injuries from war, did what his enemy in Vietnam never could, but not before Hathcock left a lasting impact on the Marine Corps.

Hathcock trained hundreds of snipers. He spent his life demonstrating and teaching, as Henderson wrote, “that the deadliest thing on the battlefield is one well-aimed shot.”

When Hathcock left the Marine Corps at just under 20 years of service, a commanding officer presented the legendary sniper with an M40A1 sniper rifle.

He was also presented with a plaque that read: “There have been many Marines, and there have been many marksmen, but there has been only one sniper – Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N. Hathcock. One Shot – One Kill.”

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Here’s what US snipers say they have to think about before they pull the trigger

An Army paratrooper points a weapon during sniper training at Pocek Range in Postojna, Slovenia
An Army paratrooper points a weapon during sniper training at Pocek Range in Postojna, Slovenia.

  • To be a sniper is to be an expert marksman at great distances.
  • Snipers consider their target, ballistics, and shooting position, knowing the first shots may be their best.
  • Several current and former US military sniper instructors told Insider about what it takes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

What do snipers think about before they pull the trigger? There are dozens of possible considerations that go into a sniper’s shot, everything from wind to an escape plan should things suddenly go sideways, current and former US military sniper instructors told Insider.

A sniper must be able to put accurate and effective fire on targets that may be moving at distances far beyond the range of regular infantry, which are trained to shoot at targets out to a few hundred meters. Snipers are trained to shoot targets possibly thousands of meters away.

To shoot at those greater distances, which sometimes requires pushing a weapon beyond its limits, snipers have to consider things like target selection and priority, size, distance to target, whether or not the bullet is lethal at that range, and, if the target is moving, target speed and direction.

‘We know what a bullet does’

There are also the ballistics – anything that affects the flight path of the bullet that could cause the sniper to miss.

Extensive ballistics knowledge is one of several key differentiators between snipers – expert marksmen – and other troops who are simply good shots, according to a former instructor.

“We know what a bullet does,” John Wayne Walding, a former US Army Green Beret who became a Special Forces sniper instructor after losing a leg in Afghanistan, told Insider. “A sniper has education on not just what the bullet’s doing but why it’s doing it. That is what sets us apart.”

There are both internal and external ballistics, he said.

Internal is everything happening inside the rifle and includes things like bullet size and weight, which affect to what degree a bullet will be impacted by the various external factors, and the barrel twist, which affects the spin drift of the round at greater distances.

External ballistics are everything happening to the bullet once it exits the barrel. Among the external factors that can affect the bullet’s flight path are atmospherics like wind, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and air density.

Wind speed and direction, which can change suddenly and inexplicably, are particularly important because they account for most missed shots, US Marine Corps Scout Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Joshua Coulter told Insider.

Snipers need to know wind at not only their position, but also at various points along the bullet’s path and at the target. To get a wind reading for the distant points, the sniper looks for makeshift wind indicators like trash, clothes on a clothesline, smoke, or really anything that might be blowing in the wind.

Other possible considerations may include the curvature and rotation of the Earth, the angle of the shot if the shooter and target are at different elevations, and anything, such as thicker vegetation, between the sniper and the target that might throw off the shot.

Snipers have to take most, if not all, of these factors into account and correct before they fire a shot to hit a distant target – with the knowledge that their first shot is likely to be their best chance at striking it.

There are electronic tools that snipers can use to simplify the process to determine things like range, gather atmospheric data, and generate a firing solution. Snipers try not to rely on these though, but if they do use them, they verify the data.

The much more important tool snipers have is their collection data on previous engagements, which contains detailed information on how the sniper, the rifle, and the bullet performed in certain conditions in the real, not digital, world.

“At the end of the day, the bullet is not going to lie to you,” US Army sniper instructor Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Jones told Insider.

“We really don’t need a lot of technology to be able to operate,” he said, explaining that “given a weapon system with an optic and data on previous engagements, we are pretty effective at doing our job as far as engaging targets goes.”

US Army sniper during a sniper competition
US Army sniper during a sniper competition

‘That is when you want to fire the weapon’

There are also marksmanship fundamentals like shooting position, trigger control, and breathing that the sniper has to take into consideration. Through training, many of these things will become second nature for a sniper.

The ideal shooting platform is one that is solid, stable, and durable, and the ideal shooting position is prone. That is not always an option in battle though, so snipers have to be prepared to work with what is available, Walding told Insider.

“Out in the real world, you’re shooting over a Humvee, shooting out of a window, on a rooftop, on a knee, standing, standing while moving,” he said. “There are so many alternate shooting techniques we run through because of the realities of the battlefield.”

A proper shooting position improves recoil management, preventing the explosion that violently forces the bullet out of the rifle from disturbing the sight picture and complicating follow-on shots.

For similar reasons, it is also important that snipers have good control of the trigger, applying pressure smoothly when firing, and have relaxed, natural breathing.

“You want to breathe as natural as possible,” Jones said, explaining that snipers wait for a “natural pause” in ther breathing. “That is when you want to fire the weapon,” he said.

Snipers also have to think about mission-specific considerations such as muzzle flash, lens glare on the scope if the sniper is shooting into the sun, and barrel blast that can blow out vegetation or kick up dust. Any of these things can affect concealment and give away a shooter’s position.

Stealth and concealment, though they are crucial sniper skills, are not necessarily required for every mission, but when they are, snipers have to be prepared for the possibility that their position is compromised by their shot.

It is critical that snipers have an escape plan, “a tenable egress route and sourced contingency assets and fire support agencies in the event their position is compromised post-shot,” Coulter said.

‘Somebody that can get the job done’

“There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” an Army sniper previously told Insider. That said, when it comes to the shot process, “everybody is going to have their checklist” that they run through, Jones said.

And in many, but not necessarily all, cases, there is also planning before the mission.

Coulter said that ideally a sniper’s “ability to conduct a mission analysis prior to crossing the line of departure or taking the shot will allow them to occupy a brief position of advantage when relatively compared to the enemy, the terrain and current weather.”

Doing so increases “the odds of mission success,” he said.

And with practice comes experience, reducing the time it takes to run through the process. A trained sniper can put accurate fire on at least 10 targets in about 10 minutes. It is actually something Army snipers have to do to graduate from the program.

For the extreme long-range shots, the shot process can still take some time, as well as some math. A Marine Corps sniper previously told Insider about a shot he took in training that involved putting a bullet in a target 2,300 meters away. It took him roughly 20 to 25 minutes to plan the shot.

Although shooting is a very important part of what snipers do, it is only a part. Snipers also gather intelligence and provide overwatch on the battlefield. The role requires professionalism, reliability, capability, and maturity.

“Just because you can shoot doesn’t mean you can be a sniper,” Walding said, adding that “You’ve got to have somebody that can get the job done, and not every marksman can.”

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A woman mistakenly received a package containing drug test urine samples from the Marine Corps

Containers of urine samples for drug testing.

Andrea Fisher took to Twitter on March 1 after receiving a strange package addressed to her with a return address of “Commanding Officer 22th Marine Regiment.”

Fisher was shocked when she opened the package to find four separate containers labeled “CLINICAL SPECIMENS – URINE SAMPLES” that were addressed to the Navy Drug Screening Laboratory in Great Lakes, Illinois.

“The Marine Corps sent me a box full of piss. I’m not even f—— kidding,” she tweeted.

“PLEASE tell me this happened to someone else,” wrote Fisher, who recently tweeted a promotion certificate identifying herself as a sergeant in the Marine Corps, wrote on Twitter.

Fisher did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Maj. Kendra Motz, 1st Marine Division director of communication strategy and operations, affirmed the Corps’ mistake to the Marine Corps Times. She said that the Marines have since picked up the urine samples from Fisher and that the package was not intentionally sent to the wrong recipient.

The military has a zero-tolerance for troops possessing or using banned substances and performs random tests periodically to screen them. They generally test for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, synthetic cannabinoids, and benzodiazepines, according to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, .

The Marine Corps recently expanded the scope of its testing in December 2020 after reports came out from the 2nd Marine Division in North Carolina that several Marines and sailors were caught using lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.

According to 2nd Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. Dan Linfante, the 2nd Marine Division planned to test for LSD in scheduled and random formats.

“The use of prohibited substances is unfortunately not new,” Linfante said. “What’s new here is that the 2nd Marine Division is now testing specifically for LSD, along with the many other substances we’ve long tested for – both randomly and in every other way possible.”

Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a public affairs officer in the Marine Corps, told the Marine Corps Times that the rest of the Department of Defense may soon begin randomly testing other branches and troops for LSD as well.

“Due to increased concerns regarding the usage of LYSERGIC ACID DIETHYLAMIDE by service members, the Office of the Under Secretary Defense for Resiliency approved adding LSD to the Drug Demand Reduction Standard Test Panel in August 2020, commencing in December 2020,” Butterfield said.

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Marine behind viral sexual misconduct TikTok video says her perpetrator was an advocate for sexual assault victims

Four unidentified US Marines in Orlando, Florida on December 20, 2020.
Four unidentified US Marines at a sporting event in Orlando, Florida, on December 20.

  • The Marine behind a viral TikTok on sexual misconduct provided more information about the offense.
  • She said the man was a uniformed advocate tasked with supporting sexual assault victims.
  • The woman issued a statement highlighting the severity of the military’s sexual abuse problem.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Marine behind a viral TikTok video criticizing the Corps through tears for its reaction to sexual misconduct says the service member who wronged her was a victim advocate tasked with supporting sexual assault survivors.

“In October 2019 while deployed, I reported my coworker for sexual misconduct, who was also a Uniformed Victim Advocate,” the Marine said in a written statement first reported by CBS News, referring to US military personnel trained to assist victims of sexual assault.

“I had proof and witnesses,” she continued. “That same night my Command confronted this Marine and he admitted to what he had done.”

The Marine Corps has characterized the misconduct as the “wrongful appropriation and distribution of personal information,” with one official telling Insider that the offending actions were of a sexual nature. It apparently involved the nonconsensual distribution of photos or video, Insider learned.

“That next morning that same Marine was still the Platoon Sergeant holding formation while I hid in my room, ashamed of what had happened,” the woman wrote in her statement.

She said that the Marine was eventually removed from the installation where she was stationed but that the Corps left her in the dark on what actions were being taken.

She recalled telling her commanding officer: “I think we need a better vetting system for Uniformed Victim Advocates. I do not want to be in the same unit as this Marine when we get back to the United States.”

The woman said she learned just before she returned to the US that she would be assigned to the same office with the Marine who admitted to sexual misconduct. She was, however, able to be assigned to another unit.

In December, she testified against the Marine before a separation board, where she says she heard people defend the man, saying things like: “He made a mistake and fell into temptation, but he could be a great leader.”

The woman said the board decided to force the Marine out of the service but with an honorable discharge, an outcome she already considered unjust and unfair.

But then last Thursday, she said, she was notified that a commanding general at her installation had decided to retain the Marine “despite his crimes.” The Corps has said the separation process for the Marine is still ongoing.

‘Deeply disturbing’

Her understanding that the man is not being kicked out over the misconduct is what led her to make the TikTok video that went viral, a video in which she tearfully said: “This is exactly why f—ing females in the military f—ing kill themselves. This is exactly why nobody f—ing takes it seriously.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin responded to the video in a press briefing on Friday, calling it “deeply disturbing” and telling reporters he had asked his staff to look into what had happened.

II Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement Tuesday that the accusations the woman made against her fellow service member were investigated and substantiated.

“The Marine was found guilty, receiving a non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was reduced in rank, received forfeiture of pay, and was processed for administrative separation from the service,” II Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement Tuesday. “Final actions in the administrative separation process are ongoing.”

A II MEF representative confirmed that the man in question was, as the woman in the video said, a “trained Uniformed Victim Advocate.”

For the Marines, a Uniformed Victim Advocate is someone who has been trained “to provide information, guidance (referrals), and support to Marines and sailors who have been sexually assaulted,” according to the service. Support is available 24/7 to service members.

The woman, whom Insider confirmed to be a Marine sergeant, did not respond to requests for comment from Insider.

In her statement, she also said she had been sexually assaulted while in the Marines. “I have experienced Military Sexual Trauma throughout my entire time in the service,” she told CBS News.

Highlighting the severity of the sexual abuse problem in the military, she said that she has “connected with thousands of men and women who have dealt with Military Sexual Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome stemming from sexual assault and harassment while serving.”

“I am not a one in a million story,” she wrote.

CBS News reports that in 2019, there were 7,825 reports of sexual assault in the US armed forces, but only 363 of those cases, or 4.6%, ever went to court martial. Statistics for 2020 are not available, but the new defense secretary has said that addressing sexual assault and harassment is a top priority.

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The Marines are honoring the type of rifle and scope used by the Corps’ deadliest sniper

A Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam
An unidentified Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam

  • The Marine Corps celebrated the history of the M40 sniper rifle with Redfield scope at Camp Lejeune.
  • The M40 rifle was the same type of weapon used by Marine sniper Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney.
  • Mawhinney is the deadliest sniper in Marine Corps history, with 103 confirmed kills.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Marine Corps recently honored a rifle and scope long used by its snipers, including one of the service’s deadliest marksmen.

The Weapons Training Battalion (WBTN) at Marine Corps Installations East-Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune has chosen “Redfield” as the call word for the Stone Bay ranges in recognition of the impact the M40 rifle equipped with a Redfield 3x9x40 scope has had on Marine Corps history.

Call words are a standard part of range control. Other examples include “Bearmat” at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms and “Longrifle” at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

“Redfield” was chosen for the Stone Bay ranges because WBTN specializes in marksmanship, the Corps said in a post on the naming ceremony. It was also chosen because it celebrates the history of Marine Corps marksmanship.

“We must remember where we came from,” a retired Marine told the Corps. “Those marksmanship skills we’ve honed over the many years, we must continue to grow and make them better.”

Charles Mawhinney
Charles Mawhinney

The modern Marine Corps sniper program was born in the jungles of Vietnam, when legends like Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, Master Sgt. Eric England, and Sgt. Chuck Mawhinney proved just how effective a marksman trained in the art of stealth, camouflage and concealment could be in battle.

For the Marines, Hathcock is by far the most famous of the legendary snipers. He had 93 confirmed kills with countless more unconfirmed, he set a record for the longest kill shot that held until the early 2000s, and he was a pioneer alongside others like Maj. Edward James Land in Marine Corps sniper training.

It was long thought that Hathcock, armed with his Winchester Model 70 .30-06 caliber rifle equipped with an 8-power Unertl scope, was the deadliest sniper in Marine Corps history, but that title belongs to Mawhinney.

The sergeant primarily waged war in Vietnam with one of the new M40 sniper rifles, a modified version of the Model 700 Remington 7.62mm bolt-action rifle that was first introduced in 1966. The early Marine Corps M40s were equipped with Redfield 3-to-9-power scopes.

Charles Mawhinney
Charles Mawhinney

Mawhinney is the son of a World War II Marine veteran. He joined the Corps in the summer of 1967 and trained as a scout sniper before he deployed overseas.

He spent almost a year and a half in Vietnam, but when he returned home to Oregon in 1969, he kept the details of his service a secret. Mawhinney was not recognized as a Marine Corps legend until more than two decades later.

In the early 1990s, former Marine sniper Joseph Ward credited Mawhinney with setting a Marine Corps record with 101 confirmed kills in his book “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam.”

Further investigation, however, revealed the number to be inaccurate. Mawhinney actually had 103 confirmed kills, along with 216 probable kills.

Mawhinney’s rules of engagement were simple. “If they had a weapon, they were going down,” he previously told The Los Angeles Times. The sniper believed that with each kill, he was saving the lives of his brothers in arms.

One of the things that haunted Mawhinney after he returned home from war was an enemy soldier that slipped away after a Marine armorer made adjustments to his rifle, affecting his shot.

“I can’t help thinking about how many people that he may have killed later, how many of my friends, how many Marines,” he said in an interview. “It’s one of the few things that bother me about Vietnam.”

Chuck Mawhinney posing with a M40 rifle replica, the same type of rifle he used in Vietnam
Chuck Mawhinney posing with a M40 rifle replica, the same type of rifle he used in Vietnam

Mawhinney is one of a handful of outstanding snipers that modern Marines aspire to be, not simply for his skills in battle, but also because of his humility and professionalism.

An infantry weapons officer and WBTN gunner recently told the Corps that he hopes that when Marines hear the call word “Redfield,” they will remember not just the M40 rifle, variants of which have been used for decades, but also legendary Marine marksmen like Mawhinney.

Mawhinney’s M40 sniper rifle has been on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps since 2006.

The Corps replaced the M40A6, the latest variant of the M40 sniper rifle, with the Mk13 Mod 7 Long Range Sniper Rifle in 2019. The service is, however, looking to replace that weapon with the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle.

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