By: Marshall Bowen
In the exclusive realm of the Marine Scout Snipers, the Hunter of Gunmen Tooth, or H.O.G. Tooth, is the most idolized item that one can possess.
It is the projectile portion from a .308 caliber round fired from the M40A1 sniper rifle. Before you can be presented with the H.O.G Tooth you must first undergo an intense indoctrination and selection process to join the Scout Sniper Platoon. If you complete the indoctrination and peer review by senior members of the platoon, you are eventually sent to 3 months of Scout Sniper School, one of the most respected and difficult military schools in the world. Upon graduation day, the newly christened member of this elite fraternity is finally presented with the H.O.G Tooth. Few honors are more hard-earned or proudly worn.
I recall my entire life before entering the military as being simple and not having any real commitments. Personally, I had not been tested with any real adversity, nor intimately known anyone else who had. Thus, I had little frame of reference for the degrees of strength and weakness that an individual, including myself, could possess. I was not critical of people, generally lumping everyone into generic categories with few real distinguishing traits.
I knew that there were people whom I enjoyed spending time around more than others, and those whom I respected more, but it wasn’t a distinctly drawn judgment in my mind. There was nothing in my life at that point that I had to fully commit to and I’d never had to give everything I had just to accomplish one specific goal. The idea of what such a thing would take, and what it would mean about me or anyone else in that situation was not a part of my state of mind.
I knew I wanted more for myself than just a diploma to hang on a wall in some cubicle, working a dead end job with no real satisfaction. I saw these people every day; living empty lives and half-consciously trying to forget the risks they’d left untaken and the dreams and potentials they’d left unfulfilled. Dead people with bills to pay, jobs to get to and cable television to watch. I wanted to do something that I knew would test my limits both physically and mentally, and I never wanted to be one of those people who spent his or her life wondering what could have been.
On August 5th, 2002 I signed the enlistment papers to join the United States Marine Corps for four years. This is the most life altering decision I have ever made.
After I had completed all the basic requirements needed to join the fleet, also known as the infantry, I was presented with the opportunity to participate in the Scout Sniper Indoctrination. If completed successfully I would belong to one of the most respected military units in the world and eventually be given the chance to attend Scout Sniper School and earn the H.O.G Tooth.
After many months of intense physical training I was finally offered a seat at the school house. During the three month course I was able to witness human beings pushing themselves both mentally and physically to points many would never think possible. It was during this process I began to differentiate people from one another in an unsympathetic, coldly critical way. If we were capable of doing these things, why should we ever accept anything less?
Three months later I completed the course, along with the remaining sixteen individuals from the initial class of forty-two, and was awarded the coveted H.O.G Tooth. Ten days later I deployed again to Iraq, only this time with much more responsibility and knowledge.
During our eight month deployment in the Al-Anbar province near Haditha, Iraq I was faced with adversity and physical and mental exhaustion in combat each minute of every day, along with all my fellow members of the Scout Sniper Platoon.
These moments only solidified my outlook on human beings as a whole. To this day I am extremely discriminating. I know what it is like to be truly tested. I know how few people actually have what it takes to make it through the greatest, most brutal tests in life, and I have developed a good deal of first-hand experience in distinguishing who those people are. I can and do make this ascertainment with people I come across within a matter of seconds.
I still wear my H.O.G Tooth to this day and it is a constant reminder of what I went through to earn and keep it.
The boundaries for what a person can do with their lives, for what an individual is truly capable of, are established entirely within the mind of that person. I saw this repeatedly during my time as a Scout Sniper H.O.G. while I was screening new candidates for the program.
Now, as an instructor for Barefoot Fitness, I see this same effect. At the USMC Sniper School, countless men with the opportunity to do something great with their lives and achieve a coveted goal fell short because something within their minds was lacking. The guys who made it weren’t necessarily the physically strongest or most gifted. They just had what it took to push through discomfort and outright anguish in order to get what they wanted.
At Barefoot, I see the same dynamic played out with a different set of people. Nobody who comes here begins with their ideal body. Everyone starts out at a different level to some extent, but a similarity lies in the fact that they all have a goal in mind of what they want to accomplish through their training. The true test lies in the mind. The rate at which individuals reach their goals seldom has much to do with what they start out with. I’ll see someone who begins our program completely out of shape; weak, overweight and immobile, but possessing that certain rare level of character that I have learned to distinguish. That person will throw themselves wholeheartedly into the program and I will watch them and know that one day they will wake up and look in the mirror to see exactly the person that they had aimed to become. It is these people whom I delight in working with.
I made the decision that one day I would wear a H.O.G. Tooth. I pushed myself past the breaking point to earn it, and once I did I literally fought to the death to continue to wear it.
Ask yourself: If you were to decide upon an ultimate goal, which category would you fall under? Would you find a way to make it happen, or would you let yourself fall short? Your potential in life is limited only by your own mind. What would be revealed if you were truly tested? Are your goals lofty enough to ever find out? Given the right path, will you be able to move forward towards your goal despite the inevitable stumbles and difficulties, or will you give up, rejoin the mediocre majority and go back to your comfortable rationalizations? Either way, you are in control.
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