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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
On target: Base shooting team enhances marksmanship skills

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | May 5, 2014

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For most Marines, wind, rain and cold temperatures are not the ideal conditions to shoot in, much less during a competition.

However, this was the situation for the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany Shooting Team that placed second in the small unit category during Marine Corps Eastern Division Matches held at Stone Bay, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, recently.

Weather conditions aside, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Crider, division matches team captain, MCLB Albany Shooting Team, said the second place win was a victory for the newly-formed, five-member team.

By attending a high-level competition such as this, “you gain a lot of information by surrounding yourself with some of the best shooters in the Marine Corps, not just the basic fundamentals of shooting, but the little tricks of the trade,” Crider said. “The things that Marines can take back to (their) units to help (other Marines) on their regular known distance course is huge (compared) to what you learn (by) just snapping in at a barrel.”

Crider said both the individual and team competitions were great learning experiences and he looks forward to his next competition.

“When you get to the team competition, (there) is a new aspect (of shooting),” Crider said. “You are doing things on a rifle range as a team that would never be able to do during an annual rifle qualification.

“(Your coach is) literally sitting right behind (you giving advice on shot placement) while at the same time, two members of the team are shooting at the same target for a combined score,” he said.

Sgt. Ryan Cordle was designated as MCLB Albany’s coach for the team competition.

“The coach’s role on the team competition day is vital to how the team shoots (and places at the end of the competition),” Maj. Alexander Vanston, another team member, said. “Cpl. (Marcos) Noyola shot his best that day with Sgt. Cordle behind him and coaching him.”

Cordle said of all the days of the competition, being the coach during the team competition was the best.  He recalled the day was very windy, with 25 mph gusts, and having to cease firing three times due to the wind blowing the targets out of the carriages.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen Sutton, team member, said Cordle learned how to read the vapor trail of the round as it impacted the target at both the 300- and 500-yard lines. 

The vapor trail is similar to the effects in the movie “The Matrix” and was vital because it allowed the coach to give us adjustments to our point of aim during the rapid fires, according to Vanston.

Shooting from the 500-yard line in the prone position, Sutton aimed at the center of the target and fired. 

“Because the wind was so strong, my impact was low and right,” he said. “Then Major Vanston fired and he was about 12 inches from the black. 

“With Cordle’s help, we were able to start putting them in the black,” Sutton said. “That was because he was reading vapor trail, impact and the wind.”

Sutton also compared the Marine Corps’ division match course of fire to the annual rifle qualification known distance course. 

“The competition course is a little less stressful than that of the annual qualification,” he said. “Where there are relays upon relays of Marines qualifying on a KD course, the competition allows Marines time to really focus on form and fundamentals of marksmanship. Every shot may not be perfect, but you can execute the fundamentals of marksmanship perfectly.”

Vanston said the division match course of fire is also considerably more difficult than the Marine Corps’ KD annual rifle qualification. Competitors had to shoot 20 rounds standing up, conduct magazine changes during rapid fires and the targets at the 300- and 500-yard lines are considerably smaller than the KD course. 

“All in all, the division course of fire makes the regular rifle qualification seem fairly basic, but if you enjoy shooting and want to bring your skills to the next level, the lessons you’ll learn while a part of the shooting team are invaluable,” Vanston said.

To become a part of the MCLB Albany Shooting Team and participate in future competitions, call Staff Sgt. Steven Perry at 229-639-6506 or Vanston at 229-639-6231.

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