CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Sixty-three shooting teams competed in the 2013 Western Division Matches at Wilcox Range here from Feb. 25 to March 8. More than 300 shooters from west of the Mississippi participated in rifle and pistol shooting matches with distances that varied from 200 to 600 yards. “There are four division matches every year,” said Capt. Nick Roberge, the officer in charge of Marine Corps Shooting Teams with weapons training battalion, Quantico, Virginia. “Okinawa is the first stop, and then Hawaii, Camp Pendleton and the championships are held at Camp Lejeune.” Division Matches are more than a competition, they also serve as a way for participating Marines to fulfill their annual rifle qualification requirements. “We’re here to share techniques and tricks of the trade,” said Roberge. “We go over a lot of fundamentals that shooters may have forgotten and try to break bad habits that they may have developed.”
Shooters must make every shot count throughout the competition; because the top 10 percent continue on to compete in the Marine Corps Championships. “With almost 400 competitors you could be in 38th place and think you’re out of (the competition) but you’re actually still in,” said Roberge.
The shooters competed with M4 service rifles, equipped with rifle combat optics, and M9 service pistols.
“The Marines give up two weeks to improve their marksmanship here at the matches,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Cecil Beltran, the marksmanship training branch officer in charge here. “The intent is to have them pass what they’ve learned here on to their fellow Marines.” The all Marine Corps Shooting Team attends all Division Matches to scout for potential shooting team members. “(The shooting team) looks for the best shooters, but also weigh in emotional maturity, consistency and ability to be coached,” said Beltran. The Marine Corps shooting team also takes the time to coach shooters during matches, which serves as an opportunity to judge their receptiveness to instruction. “The shooting team treats everyday like a class,” said Beltran. “When shooters aren’t firing they pull them to the side to give pointers on improving their marksmanship.”
Participants often leave with improved shooting techniques and those who win leave with a little more. “We’ve seen general improvement for shooters across the board,” said Beltran. “By the end of this a few Marines will receive bragging rights and badges they can where in uniform.”