As recruits aim and fire on targets, others prepare ammunition into magazines and wait their turns. Range officials walk the line, ensuring a safe environment.
The Marine Corps is full of administrative clerks, combat photographers, supply chiefs and so on, but just like infantrymen, all Marines must become riflemen first.
After four weeks training at the depot, recruits move 40-miles north to Edson Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., for field and weapons training.
Much of the marksmanship training is conducted with classes formed in half circles in which recruits practice aiming in on palm-sized targets. Instructors coach recruits through shooting positions and procedures. All the while, instructors casually preach weapons safety. They want recruits to relax.
“One of the first things we tell recruits or Marines to remember when shooting is to relax,” said Sgt. Matthew J. Maruster, primary marksmanship instructor. “Once you relax, you can apply what you learned a lot better than if you were stressed out.”
To relax while shooting, Recruit Micah S. Parsons, Platoon 1065, Company D, said he used breath control: “The slow, steady breathing really helped slow me down.”
Before actual firing takes place, recruits must become familiar with the M-16 A2, a rifle they carried for the first month of training. Before second phase, however, that rifle has only been a drilling tool to them. The first week of second phase recruits learn weapons handling, safety, functions and marksmanship. Instructors also throw in their own two-cents.
Before recruits look through their rifle sights, marksmanship instructors teach proper weapons handling and techniques.
“We give advice on our own experiences,” said Maruster. “Show them some tricks of the trade.”
Different shooting positions are a big part of the syllabus. Recruits learn four: the prone – lying flat on the stomach, the kneeling, the standing, and the sitting.
Maruster said kneeling is the best position to learn because it is used most frequently on the range and in combat.
“Most of the time when you engage your enemy, you don’t have enough time to get down on the deck, so you just go to the kneeling or sitting position,” said Maruster.
“The prone was the easiest position for me,” said Parsons. “Being able to steady the weapon helped me to take my time. I had a little trouble in the standing.”
Marksmanship instructors make sure recruits are familiar with three carrying positions and four weapon conditions because range officials do not tolerate unsafe weapon handling.
“Safety is important, obviously,” said Maruster. “You never want to lose or injure a recruit when it could have been prevented. Most of the time, it is easy enough. The safety is already in their head. It is engrained through boot camp.”
Drill instructors, coaches and marksmanship instructors keep a constant watch on the recruits, who are given no room for error.
“Coaches and drill instructors were always on the alert,” said Parsons. “Making sure your weapon was cleared and on safe after you were done firing – everything was pretty locked on according to safety.”
“Marksmanship in general should be taken very seriously,” said Maruster. “Whether you are an (administrative Marine) or an (intelligence Marine), no matter what military occupational specialty, you should have the ability to put rounds down range in a particular direction and be able to hit a target. The past few years have shown that you don’t necessarily have to be an (infantryman) to be a rifle man.”
With rifles in a tactical carry, recruits wait on the firing line for orders from the sound cart operator. Recruits fire from the standing, kneeling and prone positions before they advance to the next firing line.
Poolees Get Marksmanship Training
Blue skies, birds chirping and a cool breeze may be an ideal morning for most people, but add in the smell of gun powder and the crack of a hammer hitting a primer and sending rounds down range is what perks up most Marines.
On recruiting duty, Marines are exempt from attending the rifle range, but for Recruiting Station Milwaukee that does not mean poolees are not offered the opportunity to learn basic Marine Corps marksmanship and gain some familiarity firing the civilian version of the M-16A2 service rifle, the AR-15.
Nine of the 13 recruiting substations with RS Milwaukee each received half a day of marksmanship training, live fire, cover and concealment classes, M240B Medium machine gun familiarization, a partial Initial Strength Test and a Meal Ready to Eat lunch at Stone Bank Sportman’s Club between August 4-7.
“This was a great opportunity to face paint, check out the M240B, fire some live rounds and check out MREs,” said poolee Cody Peterson from Milwaukee.
Every poolee started their day with a weapons safety and handling class by certified marksmanship instructors from the club. This also included a breakdown of the stages of fire.
As groups of poolees were firing, those waiting to fire received classes by Marines on Marine Corps history, leadership traits, referral program and various other pieces of Marine Corps knowledge.
On the firing line each poolee was paired up with one of club marksmanship instructors or a Marine. They were given preparation time, during which they were taught breath control and trigger control.
When firing began, the poolees effectively sent rounds down range. Many poolees heeded the instructions given to them, resulting in tight groups on target. This knowledge and familiarity will further prepare these poolees when they ship to boot camp and begin their transformation from civilian to Marine.
“The most important part of recruit training is the marksmanship training,” said Sgt. Ty J. Appleton, a recruiter from Recruiting Substation North Milwaukee, “every Marine is a rifleman. By giving these poolees this edge, we are giving them a leg up on every other recruit coming from all over the country.”
As each group of poolees completed their live fire training, they moved on to another period of instruction, cover and concealment.
Sergeant Joshua Furlough, an armory custodian, and Cpl. Phillip Hammond, the assistant armory custodian, both with Fox Company, 24thMarines, and both either Iraq or Afghanistan veterans, gave poolees a class on camouflage paint and the M240B.
Following their instruction, poolees were allowed time to apply camouflage paint to their face and get some hands on experience with the M240B.
The final evolution of the day, next to lunch, was a partial Initial Strength Test. Poolees had to conduct a maximum set of pull-ups and crunches. During RSS North Milwaukee’s day at the range, two of their poolees completed 25 or more pull-ups.
Once the training was complete, poolees were able to relax with a MRE for lunch and reflect over the day’s activities.
“I love it,” exclaimed poolee Christopher Mensha of Milwaukee. “It was a great experience to get in touch with my fellow poolees, all those getting ready to go to boot camp, my recruiters and the other Marines.”
Although not every substation was able to participate at this particular range, the command did set up a similar range in the La Crosse and Wausau areas.
For those few Poolees who were not able to feel the kick of a weapon in their shoulder, the smell of gun powder in the air or hear the sound of rounds firing downrange, those sensations will become reality during recruit training and be solidified throughout their career once they earn the title of United States Marine.
Prepare for Combat
The Table 2 Basic Combat Marksmanship Course is the first step in transitioning a Marine from fundamental marksmanship to becoming a proficient combat marksman.
During Field Week, the second three-week phase of recruit training, Company F recruits completed the Table 2 Basic Combat Marksmanship Course at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 3.
“Table 2 prepares the recruits for combat by teaching them the fundamentals of marksmanship with a combat load and aiming at close distances,” said Sgt. Juan J. Solando, line staff non-commissioned officer, Alpha Range, Weapons and Field Training Battalion.
Recruits are given 150 rounds for practice drills and 50 rounds for qualification. The drills include rifle presentation, moving targets, headshots, failure to fire drills and failure to stop the enemy drills on targets 25 to 100 yards away.
During Table 2, recruits’ full combat load includes a Kevlar helmet, flak jacket, load bearing vest, web belt and pouches for magazines and canteens.
“I think Table 2 is more practical because it utilizes what we would actually do in the field,” said Recruit Christopher R. Brown, Platoon 2126, Company F. “I don’t feel like I would be prepared as well for the field if I didn’t get this training.”
“The course is designed to shoot at time-engaged targets from multiple positions,” said Solando, a Chicago native.
The targets are shaped as a silhouette of a human figure and have three vital areas recruits are taught to aim.
“A shot inside the T-box on the head is an instant kill because that’s where the brain-housing group is located,” said Solando. “A chest shot critically damages the heart and lungs and a pelvic shot would cause the enemy to bleed out.”
At the 25 yard line, recruits earn two points for each shot in the designated areas on the targets and one point outside the selected area. At the 100 yard line, it is scored simply a two-point hit or no points for a miss. Table 2 requires recruits to shoot a total of 60 points or greater for qualification.
The points will be added to the Table 1 qualification score, which recruits complete the week before Table 2. Table 1 emphasizes basic long-distance marksmanship.
“During Table 2, we are preparing for a closer-range fight as opposed to a long-distance one,” said Brown, a 24-year-old Peachtree City, Ga., native. “I feel like the potential that I will be taking short-distance shots is far greater than the likelihood of shooting long-distance.”
At 25 yards, if you can see the enemy, then he can see you and it’s in your best interest to eliminate him as soon as possible, said Solando.