MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
Ten days of shooting in the hot desert sun prepared the Combat Center’s best shooters to compete with the rest of the Marine Corps in intramural rifle and pistol competitions from Sept. 24 to Oct. 5.
Their long days culminated in the final shoots, crowning champions of the Combat Center and to represent the installation as a team. All qualifying competitors also earned the military occupational specialty of 0933, combat marksmanship coach.
“The big reason why we were here at this competition is to reinforce marksmanship fundamentals,” said Gunnery Sgt. Raymond Bryant, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Marksmanship Training Unit. “They’re here to get better as riflemen.”
Marines gathered from all units across the Combat Center to the Marksmanship Training Unit’s ranges to prove they are the best of the best.
“I think the biggest portion of this course was not really the shooting, but it continues the tradition of the Marine Corp marksmanship program,” Bryant said. “Everyone knows that every Marine is a rifleman. I think that sometimes we forget the traditions and the experience and the expertise to become those shooters.”
There three individual and three team trophies awarded at the intramural competition. Competitors shot it out for the title in rifle, pistol and best combined shooter. The teams fought for best rifle, pistol team and best infantry team. The contest for infantry team was a different format from the rest.
The infantry team match had teams divide 183 rounds between three shooters, with rounds shot from the 500, 300, 200 and 100 yard lines. The teams determined how much they would shoot after sprinting from yard line to yard line. They were then scored by most targets hit for the point values from each yard line.
“I think that everyone learned a lot throughout the competition,” said Sgt. Wayne Gallagher, MTU. “It makes them better coaches, and better rifle and pistol shooters.”
Rifle and pistol intramurals also gives Marines more time behind the weapon, to become better at what they do. The competition aspect of the course was an opportunity to raise their game and bring out the best in the shooter.
“You get a lot more practice than what you would normally get in an annual qualification,” Gallagher said. “It's the nature of the competition Marines just want to compete and have that competitive edge, so it makes them want to get better.”
There were nearly three times as many shooters compared to last year’s competition. There was a notable difference in both participation and level of shooting.
“It went a lot smoother this year,” Bryant said. ‘We had a lot more competitors. Last year we had 17 competitors. This year we had 53 total shooters. The scores were also a lot higher this year. You could tell people really paid attention and really took the time to learn what we taught.”
The next step for the MTU shooting team is high desert regional competition in November and a move onto division matches from there. The team’s goal is to ultimately battle it out with the rest of the Marines Corps to earn the title of best shooting team.