MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Of all the branches of service in the armed forces that qualify with the M-16A2 service rifle, the Marine Corps has the most demanding requirements, said Cpl. Jared W. Lasley, Marksmanship Training Unit marksmanship coach. Marines are trained to engage enemies up to a distance of five football fields away and apply various shooting positions. Although most Marines are not expected to shoot like Carlos Hathcock, the
Marine Corps’ most legendary sniper, station marksmanship instructors here try their best to get them to his level.
The Marine Corps requires all Marines to be at least a marksman, which is the lowest qualified level out of three. Sharpshooter is the second and expert is the highest.
However, the Marines at Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron Marksmanship Training Unit do not settle for less, said Lance Cpl. Matthew Davidson, MTU marksmanship coach, and Tyler, Texas, native.
“We want to excel,” said Davidson. “When we're on the firing line, we're busting our butts to make sure they become experts. We want to make them so good that they can fire ‘one shot, one kill.’"
The instructors coach and educate Marines on basic marksmanship fundamentals to achieve their goal, said Staff Sgt. Derrick S. Billiard, H&HS MTU chief, from Bellevue, Ohio.
"We help them with things like safety procedures, what to do in what types of weather and how weather affects the weapon,” explained Lasley, a native of Portland, Texas. “We (also) teach them how to properly shoot in the sitting, kneeling, standing and prone positions, applying key factors such as proper breathing, bone support and muscle relaxation.”
For hands-on instruction, Marines “snap in” before firing their rifles, which is when they practice “dry-firing” their weapons, applying proper marksmanship fundamentals.
"We have them snap in because through muscle memory they're going to be able to build good positions (at the range),” said Lasley. “You’re building a good position when snapping in, so that way your body will naturally go to that point and you will be able to fire more accurately."
These fundamentals are enforced by primary marksmanship instructors and marksmanship coaches who both work to help Marines successfully qualify on the range.