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Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Gold Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment prepare to fire the Expeditionary Fire Support System from Marine Corps Base Quantico's Weapons Range 3 on Aug. 20.

Photo by John Hollis

Marine Shooting Team heads to England for international competition

28 Aug 2014 | John Hollis The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

The weapons they use will be somewhat different, but members of the U.S. Marine Corps Shooting Team say the principles will remain constant when the head to England next month to compete in the Royal Marines Operational Shooting Competition.


“That’s why we train,” said Sgt. Thomas Cruz, U.S. Marine Corps Shooting Team, Weapons Training Battalion. “You do everything you can to train for the competition, but the fundamentals of marksmanship are always the same.”


The 12-man Marine contingent, which will be comprised of eight shooters from the pistol and rifle teams and four supporting members, will soon be shipping out to Hightown, England, to compete against British, Dutch and French teams from Sept. 1-19 for a friendly testing of shooting skills and professional exchange of tactical techniques and procedures.


Sequestration forced the Marines to miss last year’s competition, but they owned the competition in 2012, claiming virtually every major team and individual trophy much to the chagrin of their British Royal Marine hosts.


Capt. Jared Dalton, Combat Shooting Team officer in charge, WTBn., is hoping for a similar endgame this time around.


“The biggest thing for us is that we get the chance to go into international competition and verify our TTP,” Dalton said. “The marksmanship part, these guys have that. That’s the easy part.”


But things will hardly be easy when weighted down in full gear while firing British guns from a number of different positions in combat-like situations.


The British SA-80 rifle boasts a different kind of trigger the Marines see when using their standard M16. Likewise, the host nation’s Glock 17 pistol is much lighter than the Berettas with which the Marines typically train.


The issue promises to be even more of a challenge for southpaw Sgt. Devin Hughes, U.S. Marine Corps Shooting Team, WTBn.


British weapons are made for right-handed shooters, meaning Hughes has trained himself to effectively fire with both hands. It helps that he naturally fires rifles left-handed, but opts for his right when pistol shooting.


Hughes, who previously competed in the 2012 RMOSC competition, called the unique circumstances “severe, awkward and very foreign to me.”


The most prestigious of the competition’s array of events will again be the Fallen Comrades Match that pits teams against one another in challenging tests of endurance, teamwork and skilled shooting under combat conditions.


In this race, four-man teams loaded with their gear carry a 200-pound dummy on stretcher and four ammunition cans of roughly 35 pounds apiece for 100 meters before hand-loading 10 rounds into their weapons, engaging their targets and running back as quickly as possible.


“That’s the match you want to win,” Dalton said.