MARINE COPRS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Combat Center Marksmanship Training Unit Rifle Team won the Western Division Team match at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton March 20.
It has been eight years since the Combat Center last won a competitive marksmanship award, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Fredrick T. Kenney, the officer in charge of MTU.
“The team won the San Diego trophy for the best rifle team west of the Mississippi,” said Kenney, a Springhill, Kan., native about the three-week match.
The trophy they brought home has a bronze bear on top of a redwood block studded with medal tags displaying each year and name of the winning team since 1921. Every year, the team who is named best with the M-16A2 service rifle is granted the honor of displaying the trophy until the competition continues the following spring.
“This competition was a big deal because the competition is normally dominated by MCRD [Marine Corps Recruit Depot] San Diego, and teams that have distinguished shooters,” Keeney said.
The match brought more than 200 Marines from West Coast installations together in teams of four to challenge each other’s best rifle and pistol skills.
The four Marines who shot for the MTU team, Sgt. Jason R. Reyna, Sgt. Robert S. Lynn, Cpl. Jesus A. Ramirez, and Lance Cpl. Jordan R. Lacy, were selected after enrolling in the three-week intramural shooting match at the known-distance range here in October.
Keeney said he believes the early emphasis on fundamentals during the intramural tryout event is what ultimately changed the team’s attitude about the annual competition and lead them to victory.
“Last year, and the years before that, we had kind of a last-minute team,” Keeney said. “This year, we had the goal to win this match from the beginning.”
Staff Sgt. Gabriel Green, the team’s captain, agreed about changes in attitude yielding changes in results.
“This year we went out to learn,” Green said. “We leaned on each other and shot for MTU.”
For Marines like Lynn, who experienced their first major marksmanship competition that year, the experience promoted motivation to return in the years to come.
Lynn, the winner of the second gold medal for individual shooting, was also awarded the “High Tyro” award given to those who score the highest and have no previous competitions to his or her name.
Lynn, a marksmanship instructor at the rifle range here, said he believes the amount of knowledge he gained at the competition about marksmanship, ballistics and detailed fundamentals was in itself a reward.
“Throughout the three weeks I was there, I learned so much from the older guys who had already done these competitions,” said the Glenmont, N.Y., native. “Their instruction can give a broader depth of understanding, regardless of who the Marine is. Then that Marine can pass on at least a portion of that knowledge to their own Marines.”
Lacy, a fellow instructor with MTU, also won an individual award for his score; the silver medal for the rifle.
Lacy said his appreciation for marksmanship stems from the unbiased potential it offers people of all genders, races, religions and languages.
“Anyone can do this,” Lacy said of competitive shooting. “It has nothing to do with you being a strong jock or being intelligent. It only reflects your discipline and attention to detail. Aside from that, marksmanship ties into everything we do as Marines.”
Lacy had participated in competitive shooting on the east coast prior to this competition, but had never done as well. He attributed his success to a change in mentality and more humble approach to learning as much as possible.
“Some people like dancing, I like shooting,” said Lacy, a Richmond, Va., native. “There’s nothing like watching a shooter in his zone and knowing that nothing can distract his rhythm. There’s something almost poetic about it.”
Lynn said he highly encourages Marine of all ranks and units to shoot at the intramural trials every October to gain a deeper understanding of one of the Marine Corps’ oldest skills.