MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif --
From its’ inception in 1901, the Competition-in-arms Program has helped enhance the marksmanship, proficiency and combat readiness of the Marine Corps by providing a base of highly skilled marksmanship instructors, scout snipers, coaches and range personnel, said Jim Marshal, the narrator currently serving as the director of operations and training.
Those words echoed through the small theater as more than 600 Marines and their family members waited to find out who received a medal in the Western Division Matches here, March 8th.
The matches are a two-week long marksmanship competition where both Marines and civilians compete against one another, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Cecil R. Beltran, the officer in charge of Wilcox Range.
The first portion of the course involved classes on the weapon systems and courses of fire followed by dry runs during the second portion, said Beltran. In the third and final portion, the participants competed against one another.
Out of the 640 shooters who competed in the event, only the top 10 percent received medals and earned the privilege to compete in the Marine Corps Championship at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
One of the Marines who participated in the matches was Cpl. Raquel Martinez, a marksmanship coach serving with Edson Range Weapons Field Training Battalion. She competed in the matches for the third time and never won a medal, but this year she shot the highest rifle score out of all the participates.
“I told myself this year I was going to win a medal,” said Martinez, a 21-year-old native of Salinas, Calif.
She credits her achievements to the Marines who previously won medals in the event.
“I would ask the several Marines who won medals if they had any tips that would help my shooting,” said Martinez. “I would then apply what they taught me and it actually helped me become a better shooter.”
The Marines from the Marine Corps shooting team would give classes and answer questions during the first portion of the competition, but the instructors couldn’t give the Marines pointers during the course of fire.
“The Marines could only rely on themselves and the Marines competing with them for help during the shooting portion,” said Beltran. “Since they all want to see each other succeed, they tend to share tips with each other.”
Martinez said she enjoyed meeting and talking to the other shooters just as much as she enjoyed the shooting itself.
The matches also held team competitions where the Marines would select the best six shooters from their unit and battle against the other teams, said Beltran.
Martinez’s team also won the overall team competition. Giving her team earning the right to vie for the gold in the championships as well.
“It will be fun competing in the championships,” said Martinez. “It will be a good experience to compete against the best shooters and hopefully I can learn from their experiences in the process.”