MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Marksmanship Training Unit hosted the 48th annual Twentynine Palms National Rifle Association Long Range and High Power Regional competitions at the Combat Center’s rifle range Nov. 15.
All of the shooters, including the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, shooting team, met early at the range’s 1000-yard line and attended the opening ceremony before the beginning match.
Col. Robert Abblitt, Combat Center chief of staff, and Lt. Col. Thomas Frederick, G-3 deputy director, welcomed the competitors to the range and thanked them for their support and participation in the event.
Frederick followed the traditional ceremonial procedures and fired the first shot to begin the competition.
“It was a great honor that I will take to the grave with me to fire the first shot down range for this competition,” said Frederick.
Following the opening ceremony, the competitors began their first of 15 matches that lasted through Sunday.
“This is a great event that always attracts a lot of shooters from around the country every year,” said Jack Edmondson, High Power Desert Shooters Club president. “There’s an enormous amount of really great talent here to compete this weekend.”
One of those talented shooters is John Van Stantford, a Port Orchard, Wash., native who drives more than 1,300 miles to Twentynine Palms every year to participate in this event.
“This is definitely one of the coolest ranges I’ve ever shot at,” said Santford, who is also a member of the Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association. “I live in a land full of trees, so it’s a great opportunity for me to come and shoot in this gorgeous desert atmosphere.”
The participants stayed to eat and receive their awards at the awards ceremony and barbecue after Saturday’s matches.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frederick Keeney, Combat Center range officer, formally addressed the audience attending the ceremony before announcing the winners.
“This event gives us, as Marines, an opportunity to compete alongside civilians as they proudly and effectively use their right to bear arms,” said Keeney. “The marksmanship tactics and procedures that our Marines utilize in war originate right here, and I’m proud to see everyone here supporting that.”
Keeney also recognized retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Doyle D. Gracey, former Combat Center range officer, as the ceremonial guest of honor.
Lt. Col. Frederick was also present at the ceremony to recognize the participants for all of their achievements.
Army Staff Sgt. Allen Spiker, a Salem, Ore. Native, took home most of the highest awards, as well as the respect of his fellow shooters after a dominating performance of the regional competition.
“This event always draws a good crowd of people,” said Spiker. “You just have to fight your whole way through the tournament, especially against this level of competition.”
The Marines and sailors of MTU worked throughout the weekend’s events to provide a professional atmosphere for the participants and plan to host the regional tournament again in 2008.