MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
Mastery of marksmanship is one of the fundamental traits of a military member. It allows the warrior to accurately hit their target from known and unknown distances.
Some marksmen in the military, such as the members of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, have taken it upon themselves to take their skills to the next level and compete against other shooters in the military and throughout the world by joining their respective services shooting team.
Competitions such as the 54th Interservice Rifle Championship held June 25 – July 1 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, pit shooters against one another to size up their skills against each other.
“This is basically the culmination of our shooting season,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Windmassinger, a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “This is where we are really tested to see how well we’ve practiced all year. It’s a measure for us on how well we’ve trained for nationals.”
The selection process for Marines to be on the shooting team can be done one of two ways. The Marine can send in a resume stating their record of service at their previous unit. The team will review the resumé and speak to the Marine’s chain of command to assess the Marine’s performance and conduct.
A Marine can be refused acceptance to the team if they do not exceptionally represent the core aspects of a Marine, according to Windmassinger.
“Just because you can shoot doesn’t mean you’ll make it here,” said Windmassinger. “We’ve sent people home that were on par to being amazing shooters because they had a terrible attitude. It’s attitude, and being a Marine is the first thing you need. From there, it boils down to how well you shoot.”
Another way Marines are able to join the team is through division matches, which are held once a year at four Marine Corps bases.
“We start in Okinawa, then we go to Hawaii, then California and [North Carolina],” said Windmassinger. “The top 10 percent of those shooters is going to be selected to go to the Marine Corps championships and compete there.”
Once the Marines are selected to be part of the shooting team, they will train with the team using more advanced practice fire exercises such as a blind fire drill, in which the shooters will fire 20 shots to establish group sizes, to improve muscle memory and conditioning.
“We do holding drills [consisting of] a minute of holding your rifle at the target,” said Windmassinger. “You can see where your position breaks and how many seconds it takes for your position to break.
The Marines also do 100-shot drills, consisting of shooting 100 shots standing without coming off the line to improve endurance while on range. The training evolves and changes based on what the shooters are struggling with, according to Windmassinger.
“It really depends on where we have a Marine struggling, where the team is struggling or where the team is pushing their effort,” said Windmassinger. “The vast majority of our training is in the standing position because that’s where most points are lost. Its relatively simple, but it is very effective.”
The Marines will compete, on average, five to six times throughout the shooting season, improving their skills along the way and developing bonds that make them strive for excellence in marksmanship.
“When the season starts we are from all different places in the Marine Corps. [The camaraderie] really starts at Marine Corps matches,” said Windmassinger. “When every one is positive out here it affects their scores, and it brings them all up. The camaraderie, training and the way Marines act [are] making them champions.”