CAMP PERRY, Ohio – The Marine Forces Reserve Marksmanship Training Unit is responsible for training every coach that staffs every firing line at every annual rifle qualification for the entire Marine Corps Reserve. In order to get the training they need, the MARFORRES MTU Marine Corps Reserve Rifle Team participates in competitive marksmanship matches throughout the year, when they aren’t training the next generation of Reserve coaches.
This year, the team participated in the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s National Trophy Matches, where service members and civilians travel from across the country to participate in what is considered the culminating event of the competitive marksmanship world. The MTU Marines, when not instructing or shooting competitively, spend the majority of their year training individually on their home ranges. The Reserve team members are all from different parts of the country so they use matches as an opportunity to meet and train as a team. Lance Cpl. Shane O’Flynn, the MTU’s newest member, has been on the team since February 2013, after he found out about the unit during his time in the combat marksmanship coaches course. “When you go out and shoot competitively, you keep your game up,” O’Flynn said. “Then you get to take those skills back to the Marines you train in your unit. It helps you become a better coach.”
First Sgt. Maurice Huffman had been a primary marksmanship instructor and combat trainer marksmanship in the past. Despite his years of prior training, Huffman said there was still plenty to learn since joining the team four years ago. “I’ve learned that the basic fundamentals that are taught to all recruits and Marines apply to competitive shooting just as well,” Huffman said. “If any one of those fundamentals goes, then your shooting will go with it.” Master Sgt. Justin Skaret, the MTU’s head coach and a 10-year member, says coaching the team has shown him new ways of compiling and examining his shooters scores and data that allow for a more targeted approach to marksmanship coaching.
“My goal is to train shooters to allow their subconscious mind to take over the aiming process,” Skaret said. “Once their subconscious mind sees black in the sight picture, which often happens before your conscious mind does, they’ve already pulled the trigger. It’s a reflexive response that allows the mind to stay relaxed.”
The yearly combat marksmanship coaches’ course for Reserve Marines is held in Quantico, Va. each October. Marines from any military occupational specialty are encouraged to sign up, but eligibility is based on a Marines rifle and pistol scores. Six months after completing the CMC course, Marines are eligible for the combat marksmanship trainer course. Completion of both courses rates the Marine additional military occupational specialties, and they are eligible to apply to be permanent personnel at a range or become part of a MTU. The MTU normally recruits Marines ranking corporal and above, primarily to ensure that MTU members are able to maintain confidence and professionalism while working with Marines senior to them, however, exceptions are made in the cases of Marines who maintain those high standards early in their careers.
“It’s an opportunity to train Marines and to continue doing the sport I love to do,” said Lance Cpl. Patrick Swope, a member of the team for two years. “It’s awesome being able to train future coaches, and to be able to bring the skills you learned back to your unit and improve other Marines’ marksmanship.”