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Lejeune Marines hone marksmanship skills in Iraq

23 Aug 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

When Marines hear volleys of rifle fire at the west side of the camp here they don't get anxious - they feel more confident.

Marines here from the Camp Lejeune-based 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are making sure they can shoot straight when it counts by doing just that - shooting.

"There are a lot of good reasons to use the range in a combat environment," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stanley L. Foster, the battalion gunner.  "It's not just to improve on precision and tactics, but also to rotate out their ammunition."

Corrosion can be a sharpshooter's nightmare when the moment counts, causing jams, according to Foster.

"Ammo can get dirty and dust which will affect it.  Some Marines don't shoot for awhile and that round they keep at the top of the magazine can wear out," said Foster, 41, of New York City.

Another reason Marines need to visit the range is to keep their weapons sighted in.  Marines have a tendency to believe if they see it through their scope, they can automatically hit it, according to Foster. That bad habit is put to rest through practice.

"We have them practice movements while they're firing," Foster said.  "These are the same things they would do if under fire.  They do it until it becomes second nature."

The Marines agreed that the range has great benefits.

"Doing these live fire drills helps keep us up on the fundamentals and gives us practice as a team," said Cpl. Craig D. Shafer, 24, of Bremerton, Wash., and a rifleman with the unit.  "It's not just about handling weapons. It's building trust with your fellow Marines."

Marines practice what squad movements they can on the small range.  It serves as a good starting point for their training and also suits the size of the base but Marines wish it could be larger.

"I wish we could do more movements like breaking contact and squad rushes but you can't do that on this range," said Lance Cpl. Osvaldo J. Lopez, a rifleman with the battalion.  "The small range size allows us to practice communication techniques so we get a feel for how people are going to act in a certain situation."

Lopez has his own philosophy of why getting to the range in a combat zone is good.

"Every time we're out here shooting we get better and better.  The insurgents out there just shoot and don't get the training we do," said Lopez, 22, of Bayonne, N.J.  "I enjoy it a lot, it builds confidence and skill."