CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa, Japan -- Being recognized as the best at anything is an accomplishment in itself. Being recognized as the best shooters in the Marine Corps is an honor some consider second to none.
Members of the Marine Corps Shooting Team traveled from Marine Corps Base Quantico to Okinawa to teach Marines with various III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations Pacific units proper shooting techniques during the Far East Division Matches Jan. 18-31 at Camp Schwab.
The Marine Corps Shooting Team consists of marksmen handpicked from the Corps’ top shots as demonstrated through exceptional performance at shooting competitions.
“We travel to every division match: Far East in Okinawa, Pacific in Hawaii, Western in Camp Pendleton and Eastern in Camp Lejeune,” said Gunnery Sgt. Heath A. Fernald, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge with the Marine Corps Shooting Team, Weapons Training Battalion, Training Command, Training and Education Command. “Our mission is to teach advanced fundamentals in marksmanship and make sure the division matches are kept within the standards of the competition-in-arms program for small-arms competition.”
As part of their duty during division-level matches, the shooting team makes sure competitors know what goes into taking a well-aimed shot, according to Fernald. The competition is about learning and applying advanced shooting techniques, and the team taught the Marines everything from basic positions to proper trigger control.
“Over the course of the match, we taught Marines basic fundamentals such as muscle relaxation, proper bone support, shooting positions, grip alignment, sight alignment and sight picture,” said Fernald. “If Marines master all these shooting techniques, they will be successful, but it’s their job to find what works.”
Repetition is everything, according to Staff Sgt. Jonathan E. Shue, a small-arms weapons instructor with the Marine Corps Shooting Team. Since the courses of fire are different from standard rifle and pistol qualifications, such as requiring 20 shots from the standing position, a magazine change during rapid fire, and firing the pistol with only one hand, it is very important to find a rhythm, so every shot is the same and the rounds impact on target.
“There are multiple ways to hold the rifle,” said Shue. “Marines should always place the butt stock of the rifle in the same place in their shoulder every time they shoot.”
A problem some Marines have is jerking the trigger, meaning they are anticipating their shot and pulling back too hard, according to Cpl. Neil N. Sookdeo, a small-arms weapons instructor with the Marine Corps Shooting Team.
“This can be fixed by placing the trigger on the joint of their index finger and slowly pressing back until the round fires,” said Sookdeo. “Being completely relaxed is the key to great shooting. If the Marines want to succeed, they need to be consistent and stress-free.”
While the competitors take what they learn and apply it to the competition, the instructors hope they also go back to their units and teach the Marines around them the advanced techniques and fundamentals they learned here, according to Fernald.
“More Marines need to get involved in this competition to see how important and valuable this is to the Marine Corps and individual Marines,” said Fernald. “It’s a competition that breeds excellence.”
The Far East Division Matches concluded Jan. 30. Results will be published Feb. 8.