One shot, one kill. Every Marine strives to live by this creed while in combat, but the past ten years of war in the Middle East have challenged this mantra. The number of rounds per enemy kill is much higher than necessary. Marines who have experienced combat acknowledge that a resolution needs to be found.
“We need to improve our accuracy in the Marine Corps,” said Staff Sgt. Miguel Angulo, an infantryman by trade and currently a member of the Marine Corps combat shooting team at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
The Corps is constantly exploring ways to further develop operational tactics for Marines in combat. The development of the combat shooting team provides an avenue to improve accuracy and test new techniques.
“Beginning with the establishment of the Marine Corps rifle and pistol team, there has been the spirit and intent of building the bridge between the world of competition and the world of combat,” said Col. Tim Armstrong, commanding officer of Weapons Training Battalion.
The combat shooting team is that bridge.
After a century of the rifle and pistol shooting teams, it was evident that mastering precision shooting was not enough to prepare a Marine for the stress of a combat situation.
“Marines need to have accuracy when their hearts are beating, when they’re moving, when there are unknown targets and transitions,” Angulo said. “That’s what we need to teach Marines so they can be more accurate in combat.”
The majority of the seven shooters on the Marine Corps combat shooting team are infantrymen with multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan; two are wounded warriors. They have all seen combat. Now, they are sharing their experience and skills with the Corps to improve marksmanship.
“We’re here to pull together all our information and experiences to come up with different scenarios, different ways to train and make each other better,” said Sgt. Brandan Jansen, member of the combat shooting team.
The Marines spend as much time as possible shooting and preparing for three-gun competitions. During the course, Marines use the rifle, shotgun and pistol in a scenario-based settings, maneuvering through buildings and multiple realistic targets and as they progress. The competitions are open to both military and civilian shooting teams, and, occur in locations worldwide, including the course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
“What the Marine Corps combat shooting team gives us is more dynamic marksmanship: magazine changes, multiple targets, shooting on the move and moving targets,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Thomas J. Layou, battalion gunner with the training battalion. “The combat marksman really completes the whole marksmanship program.”
Although a competitive team, the combat shooting team does not just compete to win.
“Our goal isn’t necessarily to win the competitions,” Angulo said. “It’s to gather all the information we can and bring it back to the Marine Corps marksmanship program.”
Many on the team like to think of themselves as spies, Jansen said. Marines observe techniques and gear used by civilian competitors to see if it could translate into Marine Corps combat marksmanship. Sometimes their intelligence results in gear changes for Marines in the force. One recent improvement in the works is the testing of a new rifle equipped with both Rifle Combat Optics and iron sights, Angulo said. The offset iron sights allow Marines to engage the enemy even if the RCO breaks or fogs up during combat.
The team passes along gear improvements, knowledge and shooting techniques to other Marines in the fleet. Team members regularly run training sessions at the range for units preparing for deployment to better educate them for combat environments.
“The Marines we train love it,” Jansen said. “Every single person says they have improved on the rifle and the pistol. They’ve learned new skill sets they can take to Afghanistan.”
In years to come, the team wants to establish three-gun competitions across the Corps, in order to share their knowledge and techniques with Marines in the fleet, Armstrong said.
“The more the Corps starts moving to combat shooting like we do here, the more effective it will be for Marines and ultimately it will save more lives,” Angulo said.