By Staff Sgt. Amber Robinson
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — Marine snipers, by common knowledge, are some of the most renowned snipers in the U.S. militry, if not the world. When Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, were given an opportunity to qualify as snipers at the Marine Scout Sniper Basic Course in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, they took it.
For one “Cacti” Soldier, the opportunity was especially rewarding, as he graduated Honor Graduate for the class that graduated Dec. 14, at Kaneohe Bay.
Sgt. Michael Yilek, course Honor Graduate and Scout with 2-35 Inf. Regt., 3 BCT, said he was glad he took the opportunity to participate in the Marine course. Although the course was not mandatory for his sniper training, Yilek chose to rise to the challenge.
“I volunteered for the course,” said Yilek.
“I was given the opportunity to go to an Army sniper course or the Marine course,” said Sgt. Jonathan Taylor, infantryman with 2-35 Inf. Regt., 3 BCT “But I was convinced by a fellow noncommissioned officer, and leader, to go to the prestigious Marine school.”
Yilek and his fellow Cacti Soldiers were not only proud to experience and dominate the course, but to also have the opportunity to learn about and tighten their skills with their military brethren, the Marines.
“These guys were extremely professional,” said Yilek. “We learned from them and they learned from us.”
“I had never worked with the Marines before,” said Taylor. “Any misconceptions we may have had about them were broken. They really are great guys.”
The course, although tough, was a team-building challenge.
“The marches out to the range were strenuous,” said Taylor. “We had 80-pound rucksacks, and it was three miles to the range. And, it was a sprint!”
“Our last night was a field training exercise,” said Yilek. “It was a hard experience, but it was where we really came together as a team.”
All Cacti Soldiers set a strong standard during the course. Taylor and his partner, Spc. Matthew Jenkins, 2-35 Inf. Regt., were the only partners who made it through the entire course together.
A sniper’s partner is as much a part of the firing process as the Soldier holding the rifle. The cohesion between sniper and spotter is most important when firing during difficult situations. Taylor and Jenkins displayed this cohesion throughout the course.
“At one point we were practicing 1000 yard firing during a storm,” said Jenkins. “No one could see, but we have a good partnership. We were the only team to keep firing.”
All Cacti Soldiers who began the course graduated, each with a new and valuable skill as an elite qualified sniper. Their role as not only an infantryman, but an infantryman sniper, is one of honor.
Only recently has the Marine Scout Basic Sniper Course become available to Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division, with the Cacti Battalion helping to pave the way with distinction.