USS ESSEX, At Sea --
A 16-year-old male walks into a recruiting station in California, puts his passport on the table and says “I am from Kuwait, I am a U.S. citizen, and I want to enlist.”
That was U.S. Marine Cpl. Mark Jerry’s third time visiting the United States; however, he had his heart set on being a Marine since he was 11 years old. His parents worked in Kuwait but he also had family living in the U.S who they visited every few years. He was first introduced to the military when the Iraq invasion kicked off in 2003.
“There was a lot of U.S. military presence going on throughout Kuwait, especially with the convoys going down the main highway,” Jerry said. “I saw a newspaper article that said ‘U.S. Marines take over Fallujah.’ I didn’t know who they were but I was curious so I started researching. I saw the training they were offering and their title of ‘The Few. The Proud.’ At 11 or 12 years old, I was set on becoming a U.S. Marine.”
His dream of becoming a Marine naturally made his parents nervous. However, his passion toward the idea did not fade. Jerry is now a scout sniper with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“I was young when I decided I wanted to join and my parents thought it was just a phase that would pass,” Jerry said. “It kind of scared both of them because both of their fathers were in the military as well, but they saw that I was pretty passionate about it.”
After visiting the recruiter, Jerry kept communicating with him and ensured the recruiter knew how serious he was about joining. The recruiter saw how determined he was and made sure he had all the paperwork ready to go so he could leave for boot camp.
After boot camp, Jerry went to the Infantry Training Battalion where he became a machine gunner. In the fleet, he was introduced to the option of becoming a scout sniper.
“Being a scout sniper was always in the back of my mind but I didn’t know how to pursue it,” Jerry said. “We were training one day and my senior at the time introduced me to the idea of being a sniper. He was going to do it so I asked if I could join him.”
The selection process evaluated scout sniper candidates on how they conducted themselves as overall Marines.
“They looked at how you carried yourself, how you conduct yourself, if you know your knowledge, and your drive and determination,” Jerry said. “You can be physically fit, but if you don’t have the right mindset then you’re in the wrong place. You have to have the mindset.”
Jerry proved to have this mindset because a few days after the selection process ended he was informed that he was selected for the scout sniper platoon.
During sniper school, Jerry’s attention to detail and drive helped him graduate as the class high stalker.
“Stalking is like crawling through your surroundings, making your way to an objective, identifying someone or getting a shot, and getting out of there without anyone seeing you,” said Cpl. Jackson Schorno, a joint-fires observer within the same sniper platoon as Jerry. “I think Jerry’s attention to detail and his artistic side has helped him a lot with being crafty with field work, like camouflage and concealment; just using his surroundings to blend in.”
Now, deployed with the 15th MEU, Jerry uses his knowledge from his training and previous deployment on Okinawa to benefit the Marines on ship.
“We’re kind of like the jack-of-all-trades platoon,” Jerry said. “We’re expected to know everything amongst the infantry, how it works, how a call-for-fire works, as well as the shooting, drawing and stalking that comes with being a sniper. It’s an art, really. You see it all come together.”
The Marines in his platoon explain their weapon systems and capabilities to the other Marines so they understand what they do and how they can employ them.
“If infantry Marines have a scout sniper team attached to them, they have to understand what weapons we have, what we can do with them, and any other capabilities we have,” Jerry said. “Then they know how to utilize us and they know what we can do for them, not just shooting but maybe a call-for-fire as well.”
The scout sniper platoon kept their skills sharp in Kuwait this deployment, by practicing shooting and communicating while bounding in between barricades.
This deployment has given Jerry the opportunity to learn new skills and share his passion and experience to expand other Marines’ knowledge about scout snipers and the Marine Corps infantry as a whole.
Looking back, he has come a long way since the day he visited his recruiter for the first time. However, his mindset and passion has not changed.
Schorno explained Jerry faced more challenges than a typical Marine, coming from a different culture and having to adapt not only to the Marine Corps culture but also the American culture.
“The fact that he overcame all of that and is successful in everything he has done so far says a lot,” Schorno said.
Jerry plans on staying in the scout sniper community and to keep pushing himself, bettering himself and his Marines. He wants to make the Marine Corps a career and is looking at different options for his next step after deployment.
“This field takes a lot of determination; you can’t just drop your pack or give up,” Jerry said. “Your pack only gets heavier, you just have to learn how to pack it right, pick it up and move. It’s all about the mindset.”