By Lance Cpl. Cameron Storm, Defense Media Activity
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Virginia -- Shots rang out as several high-powered rifles sent rounds toward the targets of Range 4, Weapons Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Quantico on July 7, 2014. Service Members had begun the 53rd Annual Interservice Rifle Championship.
Shooting is one of the United States first sports with the first shooting competition on Long Island, New York. Union Civil Wars officers had seen the poor marksmanship demonstrated by their soldiers and formed the National Rifle Association to promote rifle sportsmanship in America.
Interservice rifle competitions were formally established in late 1960, when the chiefs of staff for the Army and the Air Force, along with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, drafted and signed a memorandum of understanding to ensure that the spirit of competition would continue through competitive marksmanship.
“The fellowship we get to experience while we are here is really not matched in any other event,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Rick Langon, a shooter with the Navy Reserve Marksmanship Team. “We get to come out here and practice shooting as well as hang out with people who really understand the sport and all its unique challenges.”
Today, service members come together several times a year to compete in many types of shooting competitions. Some events focus on individual marksmanship while others are team challenges.
Members of a different branch score each round, but regardless of who the shooter is, who is marking the targets, or marking the scorecard, everyone has a passion for one thing: shooting.
Through the passion the competitors possess, the service members learn from and exchange knowledge with one another. The things they learn not only help them become better marksmen, but also give them something to take back to their units.
“I plan on taking everything I learn here back to my unit,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Donnie Hicks, a shooter with the National Guard Bureau Marksmanship Team. “This is my first year here and I have already learned so much from the other guys around me.”
The different challenges at the competition tested more than just marksmanship. While some events test an individual’s mastery with their weapon, others will force them to work as a team to achieve victory.
When the competition is over, most of the shooters will continue on to a national competition on Camp Perry, Ohio next week.
“We are on a tight schedule in between this event and the national event next week,” said Sgt. Neil Sookdeo, the head coach of the Marine Corps Rifle Team. “I think that this week will get us ready for next week and that final challenge for this season.”
Sport shooting has a rich history in the United States that extends across the military, breeding camaraderie and spreading marksmanship throughout the ranks.