Most units within the Special Operations Community have an informal symbol that guys either get tattooed or wear on some form of clothing.  SEAL’s for example, have a frog symbol, with their BUD/s class that depicts them as being “frogmen”.


Navy Seal Bone Frog Tattoo Class 265 (Photo courtesy of

Some Combat Applications Group (CAG) guys get the Greek delta sign tattooed somewhere, Air Force Pararescuemen, Combat Controller (PJ/CCT) guys get two green feet.  Marine Scout/Snipers are no different, and for years the “unofficial” logo was dual lightning bolts most often associated with the Nazi Waffen SS symbol.

I had the honor and privilege of becoming a Marine Scout/Sniper and later a Scout/Sniper Instructor.  Of all the schools I went to in my Force Recon pipeline training, none were more instrumental in teaching me to do more with less, and I quickly found my calling.

As someone who joined in the mid 90’s and got out in the mid 2000’s I saw the role of Scout/Snipers evolve from competing hard to get the Maritime Special Purpose Force MSPF mission on the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) over other Marine units (namely Recon) in the 90’s, to being used tremendously and lethally in a two war front in the Middle East and elsewhere in the ongoing Global War On Terror, to becoming a part of The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) via the newly established MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command).

The community is very, very small, at anytime there were about 250-300 snipers in active STA (Surveillance Target and Acquisition) platoons along with instructors at the 4 schools Marine Corps wide and three Special Operations Training Groups (SOTG’S).  That’s .00170% of the Marine Corps.

One thing I realized after successfully completing PIG school (we were called that because we were Professionally Instructed Gunmen), and only once we graduated Scout/Sniper School were we recognized as a HOG or (Hunter Of Gunmen); was that every Scout/Sniper was most proud of what he just accomplished.  Getting that 8541 MOS, now 0317, was something no one could ever take away from you and many wanted to show that off.

As with many Marines, tattoos are a part of our culture and the Scout/Sniper community is no different.  The EGA (Eagle Globe & Anchor) is probably the most common tattoo Marines get or the Devil Dog, it symbolizes and says “I’m a Marine and proud of it.”  Scout/Snipers are the same, some would get a tattoo with a reticle and SS in it or around it with the words “Kopfjäger”, the German word for headhunter perhaps attached to it, or something associated with skulls.  I have even seen some HOG’s get branded with a hot piece of hand-made wire and heated with the SS lightning bolt brand.


Marine Scout Sniper Platoon with SS logo (Photo courtesy of small wars journal)

Of course, for an outsider looking in or a senior Marine Officer seeing this, the first thing that dual lightning bolts conjure up is “it’s some type of Nazi statement these cowboys are making.”  Nothing could be further from the truth; in reality, it was simply a way of putting Scout/Sniper on one’s body without spelling it out and became an “unofficial” logo for HOG’s to show off.  The perspective though with which higher command inside the Corps saw it was much, much different.

The Quantico schoolhouse was right down the road where Marine Corps doctrine and policy was created, MCCDC was aptly nicknamed the “Death Star” by us; it afforded me insight on how Marine Commanders viewed this “problem” growing in fleet STA platoons.

Many times we would host generals and dignitaries from Washington D.C. up the road, with dog and pony shows on one of the ranges (everyone wanted to see what USMC Scout/Snipers did), I heard the rumblings and unease by them, often in the form of a question “what do all these SS Nazi symbols mean?”  It was impossible to explain.

Imagine trying to get into today’s Marine Corps with that or trying to re-enlist with that on you?  Now almost every tattoo is scrutinized and documented in one’s Service Record Book (SRB), a vast divergence from when guys were sleeved or branded.


Tom Berenger Sniper 2 movie with first unofficial SS logo hat (USMC snipers were technical advisors on the movie)

The Staff Non-Commissioned Officer (SNCOIC) of Quantico at the time was a Gunny who I’ll only call “H”, as I don’t have his permission to use his full name.  He was a good friend and taught me more about camouflage, concealment and field-skills than I ever could have dreamed of.  He slept in his cube on the floor during the week on an ISO mat and would go home on weekends to his family; he was that committed to our duty to train the worlds’ deadliest Snipers.

To say he ate and slept teaching Marines about what Marine Scout/Snipers do so well; hide, blend and deceive, would be an understatement.  The class he gave to basic and advance Scout/Snipers on camouflage and concealment was three hours long and every instructor would sit in the back through its entirety with the students, every time, it was that good.

(End Part 1)


Author R&D’ing the new M40A3 suppressed rifle prior to 9-11. Used by them to push into Afghanistan and personally flying them in country to hand replace in battle with the older M40A1 and give a quick MTT to trigger pullers on scene 

Pictures attached:
  1. Navy Seal Bone Frog Tattoo Class 265 (Photo courtesy of
  2. Marine Scout Sniper Platoon with SS logo (Photo courtesy of small wars journal)
  3. First SS hand drawn logo (Photo courtesy of M/Sgt Nathan Hunt)
  4. Tom Berenger Sniper 2 movie with first unofficial SS logo hat (USMC snipers were technical advisors on the movie)
  5. 3/6 Scout/Sniper Platoon with SS logo (Photo courtesy of snipers
  6. Author holding USMC Scout/Sniper Chuck Mawhinney’s Sniper rifle used in Vietnam and attributed with 103 confirmed kills (Photo courtesy of Alex Popovic)
  7. Author R&D’ing the new M40A3 suppressed rifle

Additional comments from retired Sgt Maj David Devaney writer of They Were Heroes

Diatribes of a Knucklehead 161130

When United States Marine Corps Scout Snipers use the abbreviation of SS it simply means Scout Sniper. People need to just stop trying to read between the lines. So why do the Scout Snipers insist using the Nazi Runes? Because they look cool; that is all there is to it. People hate the German Army from WWI and WWII, but any military historian will tell you that they were one of the greatest war machines ever. The US military still studies their tactics.

After the 1st Recon photo with an SS flag went “full on retard” everyone freaked out (there was also a urination incident). The SMMC (who is a HOG) did a world tour yelling at every SS in the Corps over the use of SS. SS means Scout Sniper just like MP means Military Police, WTF.

There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter…

Ernest Hemingway

Diatribes of a Knucklehead 160523

FYI, the SS thing in the Marine Corps SS community is nothing new; here is an example.

During 1993 I was the Chief Scout for 3/3 STA. Some of my guy’s came back from the gym and said the CG (Commanding General) wanted me and the designer of our STA shirt in his office at – what ever time. I grabbed Cpl Belford (Odie) we went to the base Headquarters.

The base SgtMaj grabbed me and took into the CGs office. The CG started yelling about Nazis and racists, ect. I was shocked and had not figured out why I was being yelled at yet. He was upset that our Plt shirt had an SS in one of the eye sockets.

CG: Who designed this shirt?

Me: Cpl Belford, General.

CG: Is he here?

Me: Yes General.

CG: Well, go get him and bring him in here so I can educate him on the SS symbols you guys like so much.

I grabbed Odie and reentered the CGs office. I though the CG was going to shit on himself when he saw Odie was as black as a piece of carbon paper.

CG: Cpl Belford, do you know what the SS symbolizes?

Odie: Yes General.

CG: What does it stand for?

Odie: Scout Sniper General.

CG: Where is it derived from?

Odie: Well General, Marine Corps Scout Snipers have been using SS as an acronym since the Korean War.

CG: What about the Nazis?

Odie: What about them sir.

CG: Cpl, just go away.

Odie: Aye Aye Sir.

CG: Sgt (to me) you know what the SS really stands for right?

Me: Yes General.

CG: What does it stand for?

Me: Scout Sniper General.

CG: You are giving me a headache; please just leave.

Me: Aye aye sir; have a great day.



Follow Alex at his own site here:

By Alex Popovic

Alex Popovic was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, and immigrated to the United States in 1986, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1994. In 1993 he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, rising to serve in its elite Force Reconnaissance Company as a Scout/Sniper serving until 2004. In 2004, he entered the restaurant business and successfully grew his Subway franchises into several dozen stores and began developing locations throughout the Las Vegas commercial market. He was involved in ground up development that included raising capital, site analysis, land purchase, entitlement and final build out of convenience store, gaming, gas station and restaurant turnkey locations. In 2008 he sold his entire portfolio just prior to the financial crisis. In 2009 Alex relocated to Phoenix and became involved in distressed property purchases, and rehabs. He obtained his realtors license in 2013 and helped clients purchase a variety of different commercial properties to add to their portfolios throughout Phoenix. In 2017 he became a designated broker and opened Apex Commercial Real Estate a boutique development firm and commercial real estate brokerage ( Alex has a bachelor’s degree in Business and Entrepreneurship (BBA) and received his Masters of Real Estate Development from the W.P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

2 thoughts on “USMC Scout/Snipers, Lightning Bolts and Nazi Symbols, Part 1”
  1. Say whatever you want man, but the SS double lightning bolts symbol is a Nazi symbol created by Hitler and the Nazis themselves. There is no going around that.

  2. SS 3/3 1984-1986
    We used to tag that symbol all over countries on westpacs and in Hawaii, it was never a nazi thing.

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