View Full Version : Marine achieves goal to become sniper

07-25-06, 08:44 AM
Marine achieves goal to become sniper
By Heather Crain
The Hammond Daily Star

When Lance Cpl. Brad McKee returns to Iraq this year, he will be among those Marines who are most hunted by the enemy. He will be a sniper.

McKee, a polite, 21-year-old with light brown hair and blue eyes, graduated from scout sniper school in Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 14 after months of rigorous training and testing.

"We're probably the most hunted guys out there as far as the insurgents," McKee said last week from his Hammond home while on military leave. "If somebody catches a sniper over there, I think it's like $75,000. We have a price tag on our head."

McKee, a 2003 St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Catholic High School graduate who joined the Marines more than two years ago, returned from Iraq in March after serving seven months in Fallujah.

On leave since June 30, the young Marine will head back to Camp Lejeune Wednesday to prepare for his second deployment to Iraq in early September. He will be stationed in Ramadi for seven months.

Self-described as a goal-oriented person, McKee envisioned one day becoming a scout sniper in the Marine Corps. He just didn't think it would happen so soon.

"But when I set my goals, I try to reach them," he said.

During his first deployment to Iraq, McKee got the opportunity to try out for a sniper platoon assigned to his battalion.

"You don't have to be a sniper to be in that platoon," McKee said. "So at the end of Iraq, they asked if anybody wanted to try out for the sniper platoon."

To even try out for the platoon, soldiers must have at least a score of 100 on their American Standard Vocation Aptitude Battery test. McKee had a 99. But his superiors gave him a shot anyway.

A physically and mentally grueling weeklong training followed for some 30 soldiers in December at Stone Bay, Camp Lejeune. The men were pushed to their limits during the first two days with three or more miles of running, pull-ups, crunches and more.

The physical challenges were followed by a three-hour inventory test and more running, mock field missions and obstacles courses.

"It's probably the hardest things I've ever done in my life," McKee said. "I think I went close to 70 hours with no sleep."

But the hard work paid off. McKee finished top in his class and was voted No. 1 by his instructors and peers. Twelve to 15 soldiers successfully completed the course.

"I was pretty pumped," he said. "I came home for Christmas, and I was all excited about that."

The local soldier's next goal was to actually get into scout sniper school at Camp Lejeune. To do so, though, he had to improve his ASVAB test score.

On his own initiative, McKee found the education center on base and signed up a for a three-week course to improve his score. He took the test and advanced from a 99 to a 109. He started sniper school on March 30.

"Sniper school was very challenging," he said. "The hardest thing about it was that you're doing something different all the time and at any point you can be dropped during the school."

The class began with about 28 soldiers and ended with 24, McKee said, adding that some classes usually finished with a lot less. They were commended by their superiors for being one of the best graduating classes the school has had.

Counting graduation as one of the biggest accomplishments of his life, McKee also remembers commencement day as a somber one. That day marked the anniversary of the death of one of his fellow soldiers, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

"Now, I'm looking forward to going to Iraq," McKee said. "A lot of people call me crazy and ask me why I want to do it. The best way I can describe it is - they say the first time you go to Iraq, you feel like you've left a piece of yourself over there. And you've just got to go back and find it."

Instead of patrolling the streets in daylight like last time, McKee will only operate at night during this deployment. He will carry different weapons and be on the offensive making sure insurgents don't plant bombs.

"They are scared of us. That's why they hunt us so hard because we are the biggest threat to them," McKee said. "My job is to save Marines' lives."

At this point, McKee is undecided about the future. He will return home in March and have to decide whether to re-enlist or go back to Southeastern Louisiana University where he has already attended for one year.

"I love Hammond like no other, and I love what I do over there," he said. "It will be a toss up, a big decision.

"I'll be the first one to tell you right now, I don't have any problem with going over there and not coming back," he added. "If that's what it takes, that's what it takes. But that's what I signed up for."