Twentynine Palms -- Marines from installations across the western United States came to the Combat Center to test their combat shooting skills in the annual Western Regional Combat Match April 4-8, 2016. The match was held to enhance combat marksmanship abilities of individual Marines.
“Once that buzzer beeps, you have to maintain a cool mindset and stick to your plan,” said Sgt. Jacob Weller, chief school house instructor, Combat Center Marksmanship Training Unit. “This competition really challenges Marines to think on their feet.”
There were two categories in the match; the team competition and the individual competition. Ninety-one Marines from 12 different units competed.
During the match, ‘high-fives’ and camaraderie were shared between competitors, but the three-gun competition made every Marine more confident in their combat shooting.
“This competition is a great learning experience for younger guys to become familiar with using different weapons systems before deployment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Nathan C. Stocking, officer in charge, Marine Corps Combat Shooting Team.
With oversight from the Marine Corps Combat Shooting Team, the Combat Center’s MTU organized a total of 10 various firing courses throughout the match. Competitors had a three-minute brief prior to each table of fire and a five-minute walk-through to strategize their approach.
“The competitors are constantly changing their plan when they see someone else’s strategy,” said Sgt. Francis Shuster, combat shooting competitor, Marine Corps Combat Shooting Team. “In the end, they have to go with what works for them and be confident.”
To emulate realistic combat training, the shooters were challenged both mentally and physically as they were required to carry two 30-pound ammo cans a distance of 30 yards before each reload during parts of the team competition.
“[The Western Regional Combat Match] is fast and more action packed than the precision shooting matches,” said Cpl. Eric Schneider, heavy equipment mechanic, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. “It’s more fun than traditional competitions and it’s still good preparation for annual [rifle qualification].”
Competitors fired the Benelli M1014 shotgun, the Berretta M9 service pistol and M16 or M4 service rifles at a variety of targets. Shotgun slugs and buck shots hit steel and clay targets. 9mm and 5.56mm rounds tore through paper targets and the ‘Texas Star’, a spinning steel target, challenged shooters’ precision. Each course of fire simulated a realistic scenario Marines could face in combat, including breaching doors and firing at hostage targets on ranges designed to simulate the inside of a building.
2nd Lt. Christopher Scott, military police officer, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, won a gold medal in the individual shooting match and a group of four range coaches from MCRD Weapons and Field Training Battalion took gold in the team competition.
Every Marine who earned a medal in the Western, Eastern, Far East, and Pacific Combat Matches, will compete in The Marine Corps Combat Championship at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 23.