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Twentynine Palms, California
Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

What I’ve Learned: Sgt. James Marker

2 Dec 2015 | Lance Cpl. Thomas Mudd Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

I grew up shooting and always enjoyed it. My dad was in the Marine Corps in the '80s and was passionate about it. He started teaching me when I was five and we would shoot cans off the back porch.

I enjoy shooting because I like challenging myself. I have never shot a perfect 250 on the annual rifle qualification. It comes down to how good you can get. Can you get past those obstacles? People who play sports are always trying to be faster or stronger, shooters are always trying to be more accurate.

I feel like I’m testing myself every single time I go to the range. Different ranges have different conditions you have to compensate for. Every time you compete, it is a different set of obstacles you have to tackle to take a good shot.

I did not start shooting competitively until November of 2013. I was part of the range as a block non-commissioned officer, and shot in the intramural competition. I was recruited for the base shooting team after the match. I have participated in six different competitions, each one multiple times.

My favorite part about being part of the team is seeing how much I can improve. We preach on the shooting team, that although we shoot individually it is a team. If you do well as a team, the individual awards will come.

In the past year, I was coaching the base team, a team from Combat Logistics Battalion 7 and a team from 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. My focus was on the base team because they would have the opportunity to go into bigger competitions but I still coached about 30 people to shoot competitively.

It was a huge undertaking and was an overwhelming experience. We still ended up taking the pistol trophy during the base's big shooting competition and I saw all the people I coached improve throughout the year. That is my most significant accomplishment while I have been on the shooting team.

Being a part of the shooting team lets me translate all my experience as a kid into the big leagues where people of all ranks compete. Everybody’s dream while competing is to put all 10 shots through one hole, but that can’t happen. We all try to achieve that and that is why I enjoy shooting.

I’m working to become a distinguished marksman. If I can do that in the Marine Corps, then I’m distinguished as a civilian too. If I can win a silver or gold for both the pistol and the rifle in the next competition, I will become a double distinguished marksman.

There are so few people who have achieved double distinguished in the Marine Corps that it has become my goal before I get out.

My favorite gun to shoot is the M110 rifle. It is basically an M16 with a scope and shoots 7.62 mm rounds. It is a comfortable rifle and because it is so similar to the M16 - it is a gun I’m familiar with.

When I get down to take a shot, I try and block the extra stuff like I’m thirsty or its cold. I focus on important things like whether my buttstock is in the right place, do I have good eye relief and do I have a round in the weapon.

Next, I tell myself that this is going to be a good shot. If you tell yourself that it isn’t going to be a good shot then it won’t be.

Marksmanship from the farther shooting lines is fun because of all the things you have to take into account to ensure you can take a good shot. That is challenging and I enjoy pushing myself as far as possible to get those hard shots.

Shooting is not something that I want to lose after I get out of Marine Corps. There are plenty of competitions that I can participate in and I will most definitely continue shooting when I get out.
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms