MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
All Marines know the phrase “every Marine a rifleman,” but are all Marines as qualified on their rifles as they could be?
Marines aboard the Combat Center have an opportunity to extend their rifle and pistol marksmanship skills beyond what they attain during annual qualification at this year’s Commanding General’s Intramural Rifle and Pistol Competition at the known distance rifle range here from Monday to Oct. 16.
Although many are mislead by the name of the event, it is not simply a recreational event meant to select high-shooting qualifiers for annual Marine Corps shooting competitions, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frederick Keeney, the Marksmanship Training Unit range officer.
“There are misconceptions about what this is and what it isn’t,” said Keeney, a Springhill, Kan., native. “First and foremost, it’s a three-week training package for the fundamentals of rifle and pistol marksmanship. We just enhance the training by adding a little competition.”
Keeney has participated in three intramural competitions himself, and has strong personal beliefs about the marksmanship of Marines, saying warriors of all ranks and levels of experience can learn equally from the competition. There are lessons, he said, that no Marine is too good to learn.
“[Department of Defense] statistics have shown it is taking large amounts of ammunition to produce enemies KIA [killed in action],” Keeney said. “In my opinion, and going off what I have seen in combat, units spend far too little time on marksmanship fundamentals – an average of two hours and five minutes of live-fire training per year. I wouldn’t even call that a hobby; that is a travesty. It has become a check in the box for promotions.”
“It’s historically shown that the Corps tends to back away from intensive marksmanship training during war, when it’s most important,” he said. “But if your fundamentals are not perfect, you won’t get a ticket to the game [deployment].”
Keeney urges all Marines to change that trend by taking advantage of a rare training opportunity like this.
During the competition, the teams, made up of four-to-six shooters, will be in a more laid-back setting and will focus more on technique quality rather than the number of rounds and shooters who must finish the daily requirements, said Ed Foltz, the MTU range chief.
“Marines who do the competition this year are considered to have qualified for FY [fiscal year] 2010,” said Foltz, a Buffalo, N.Y., native. “It’s our way of giving back to the units who let their Marines participate.”
Sgt. Robert S. Lynn, a coaches course instructor with MTU, said he has signed up to be on the intramural team Hot Garbage, which took the infantry team trophy at the intramurals last year. Lynn hopes to continue the team’s winning streak.
Most would agree Lynn knows his stuff after learning he took the personal rifle award in last year’s intramurals. He also claimed the individual gold rifle award at the 2008 Western Division Team Match at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 20, and the Infantry Team Trophy and medal at the Marine Corps Championships at Stonebay, N.C in April. Even Lynn said he still has more to learn about improving his marksmanship techniques.
“When you do one thing for an extended period of time, you begin to more fully understand all the little details and how important those details can be,” said Lynn, a native of Glenmont, N.Y. “A lot of Marines show up, shoot, get a score and are perfectly happy with whatever score they get. They don’t always see how those skills may apply further down the road.
“There’s instant gratification in it,” he said about hitting black. “It takes a lot of hard work and sweat. But when you see a shot in black, you know that you put it there and knew where the round would go the whole time.”
Gunnery Sgt. Tim Warren, the Provost Marshal’s Office training chief, agreed with Lynn about continuously improving marksmanship skills. Although he has never participated in an intramural competition, he said he felt compelled to do so this time around.
“I wanted to improve my marksmanship,” said Warren, a native of Binghamton, N.Y. “You can always learn because learning never stops. I’ll take any good advice from the lowliest private to the saltiest sergeant major or master guns. Shooting is a perishable skill and I think doing it more than just once a year will keep up those skills.”
Marines who place well enough in the intramurals may secure a spot on the Combat Center team for the 2009 Western Division Team Match.
Now Marines may know the difference between myths and facts surrounding the intramural competition; it offers far more benefits than simple bragging rights or trophies. MTU will accept sign-ups until Monday at 7 a.m. Marines interested need authorization from their command before signing the roster. To learn more, call Keeney at 830-7280.