Camp Pendleton California --
The Marine Corps’ marksmen and snipers are regarded by some to be part of the best in the world.
To become part of that group, recruits of Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, have to start from the basic fundamentals of marksmanship during Grass Week at Edson Range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 4. It is the Corps’ marksmanship program that ensures every Marine is taught the basic fundamentals they can build on throughout their career.
The purpose of the fifth week of training, otherwise known as Grass Week, is for recruits to learn the basics of how to operate the M16-A4 service rifle.
“We have to start with square one and teach recruits every aspect of a weapon from the nomenclature to the functions of the weapon,” said Sgt. Anthony I. Juedes, drill instructor Platoon 2125. “You have to know how to fundamentally use your weapon regardless of rank or job.”
During Grass Week, each platoon is assigned to a Primary Marksmanship Instructor or PMI. PMI’s are the subject matter experts in the art of shooting and provide classes for recruits throughout the week. Recruits learn how to use an M16-A4 service rifle, as well as the mechanical functions that make it work. Some marksmanship fundamentals learned during the week include sight picture, sight alignment, trigger control, breathing control and natural point of aim.
Once classroom instruction is over, recruits move on to the practical application. Recruits practice their sitting, kneeling and prone positions on a padded area that surrounds a barrel target. They spend countless hours during this week in a process called snapping-in, where they aim, with empty magazines loaded, at a barrel with targets painted on it. The targets are of different sizes to simulate the distance (200, 300 and 500 yards) at which recruits will be shooting live fire during firing week.
PMI’s use snap-in time to adjust recruits’ positions and ensure their deficiencies are corrected.
Other fundamental knowledge recruits learn regarding their weapon is the difference between a stoppage and a malfunction. A stoppage is a disruption in the cycle of operations from firing one round to the next. Marines are trained in how to fix the disruption to continue firing. A malfunction is an irreparable damage to a piece of the weapon that only a trained armorer may fix, if it is fixable.
“If you were deployed and are in a combat situation, you have to know how to fix the weapon in case of a stoppage,” said Juedes, an Oshkosh, Wis. native. “You can be sure the person to your left and to your right have received the same training.”
Eighteen-year-old recruit Alexander P. Morgan had previous experience with weapons, but, the knowledge he gained during Grass Week made him more confident in his shooting abilities.
“I fired a weapon before recruit training and I was terrible, I missed the target multiple times,” said Morgan, a Whales, United Kingdom native. “Grass Week has greatly improved my understanding of marksmanship. As long as I follow the fundamentals taught here I feel I will do well on firing week,”
During firing week recruits of Co. F will be at the firing range, where they will shoot live ammunition and attempt to qualify with their rifle. Qualification is a graduation requirement and thus another reason for the importance of Grass Week.
“Every Marine is a rifleman, and one day in combat your life might depend on it,” said Morgan. “The weapon is an extension of your body and you must know how to use it to its full capabilities.”