Marine Corps Logistics Base ALBANY Ga. --
Twenty-five Marines and four civilian police officers fired Beretta M9 pistols at the newly-upgraded pistol range at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, April 23-27, for their annual weapons qualifications.
Master Sgt. Mark Carabello, Military Operations Training Branch base operations and training chief, MCLB Albany, said this was the first official pistol range for the calendar year for Marines and civilians, who must qualify with the M9 pistol.
“The range was recently upgraded with a new targeting system and this was the first opportunity for everyone, who is required to carry this weapon, to qualify with it,” he said. “Every year, each individual is required to shoot, become familiar and comfortable with it according to the Marine Corps’ established standards.”
Carabello said every Marine must be able to perform at a known-distance qualifications course.
“Shooters start at the 25-yard range and shoot a specified number of rounds, which is timed, then they move to the 15 and 7 yard lines,” he said. “It gives them a confidence and comfort level from far away and close-up targets. We train and prepare for combat, and in that environment, nothing is certain, so you always have to be prepared for the uncertain, which may be from a long distance or in a very close environment.”
Carabello noted with any type of marksmanship training, it is imperative that Marines do this at least once a year.
“It is a perishable skill, so if you are not practicing in an official environment or on your own time, you can lose that skill, confidence and fundamentals to become a better shooter,” he said. “Marines shoot an average of 40 rounds daily for practice. The ultimate goal is to at least obtain the minimum, but they must qualify at marksman, sharpshooter or expert within each calendar year.”
Carabello added it is a source of personal and professional pride for Marines to qualify and since he has been here, he has not had a Marine who did not qualify. Everyone’s goal is to be an expert and their scores are part of their official military records.
“All 22 Marines qualified and the civilian police officers conducted familiarization firing,” he said. “Of the 22 Marines, seven qualified as experts, 12 as sharpshooters and three as marksmen. The next available date for the range is May 14-18.” Gunnery Sgt. Kejuan Hull, Operations Directorate staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Marine Corps Logistics Command, said the pressure to qualify was minimal because as Marines, they are taught to apply the fundamentals learned in recruit training on the range.
“Every Marine is a basic rifleman, so we are taught the fundamentals of looking at sight fixture, sight alignment and applying those techniques so that when we come here to the pistol range for qualification, it becomes second nature,” he said. “Once those techniques are applied along with a slow, steady squeeze of the trigger, the round goes down range and hopefully hits the black.”
Hull said it is reassuring to know that he and other Marines can go out there each year and apply their knowledge of firing the M9 pistol whether it is needed here in the continental U.S. or overseas in a deployment situation.
Another MCLC Marine, Maj. Latresa Steward, Operations Directorate, operations officer, said she had to rely on her coaches as well as her skills to qualify on the pistol range annually.
“We have some really good coaches out here, so basically I just went out there, listened to my coaches remind me how to aim, breathe and relax while shooting,” she said. “This weapon is an extension of me, so it is important that I am relaxed and able to focus on the target.”
Steward said it is critical for Marines to be able to have a clear mind, aim in on the target and focus on what they are doing, because if they become tense, then they can become dangerous.
“It is very comforting to know that we have to qualify every year because we must know how to use this weapon as part of our jobs, and if deployed, we may need to use it,” she added. “It is a skill that can be lost if not practiced, so qualifying each year gives us a chance to reassess our skills so when it comes time to use it for real, we know what we are doing.”