Photo Information

Three members of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Shooting Team, Gunnery Sgt. William Kevin Walker, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen G. Ryther and 1st Sgt. Clark Rhiel, attend the Blue Ridge Mountain 3-Gun Championship in Park City, Ky., May 1, 2011.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Nana Dannsaappiah

Top Shot: What it takes to be among the best shooters in the Reserves

12 May 2011 | Lance Cpl. Nana Dannsaappiah

For some Reserve Marines’ travel opportunities can be limited as they have to spend one weekend a month drilling at their local base. Additionally, their opportunities to practice marksmanship can be even more limited having to pack all their annual training into one weekend a month and two weeks a year.  

Becoming a member of the Marine Forces Reserve Marksmanship Training Unit, otherwise known as the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Shooting Team, can change all that.

The Reserve pistol team has been around since at least 1938 and primarily trains combat marksmanship trainers for MarForRes during a two-week course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., every October.  They also have an important duty of teaching the newest shooting techniques and passing other knowledge gained throughout the year onto CMTs. This provides the team opportunities to travel and see various shooting events that the average Marine doesn’t get to see.

“We take back the knowledge and experience that we get from going to these events to the CMTs because they don’t get to try these things,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Stephen G. Ryther, a three-year veteran of the team.

Also, the team is able to travel as members of mobile training teams who train CMTs and coaches for MarForRes units at rifle and pistol ranges.

All Marines are riflemen, but to become one of these top shooters one has to be able to at least shoot the rifle and pistol at an expert level. 

Ryther remembers when he tried out for the shooting team.  He competed against others in a rifle and pistol marksmanship event in Tampa, Fla., and placed first.

“I shot the best I ever did,” said Ryther, smiling as he recalled the try outs.  “It was like I had just made the Olympics.”
Shooting is the underlying requirement, but the one thing that screeners said is a must for getting on the team is maturity. 

Applicants must be interviewed numerous times by people such as the officer in charge of the team and the Weapons Training Battalion executive officer to determine trustworthiness.

“We are looking for someone who is very responsible,” said Ryther, pistol team captain.  “You have to be able to shoot of course, but we screen for criminal activity, debt, domestic violence, etc., because you’re going to be on independent duty, conducting your own training, traveling on your own and representing the Marine Corps at all times.”

The team consists of both Individual Ready Reserve and Selected Marine Corps Reserve Marines and they all share a common challenge of balancing family, civilian jobs, drill duty and competitive shooting.

“It is difficult to find an hour a night to practice if you have a wife and kids,” said Gunnery Sgt. William Kevin Walker, a Gulfport, Miss., native.  “It’s hard.”

When asked how he and the other shooters manage this lifestyle, 1st Sgt Clark Rhiel had a simple response. 

“Carefully and with a calendar,” joked Rhiel, who is the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the pistol team and a Secaucus, N.J., police officer.

The team shoots live rounds at least once a week and practices draws, reloads and constant dry firing with airsoft pistols while applying shooting fundamentals. Walker, a veteran of the team, does something shooting related at least four times a week when he is not at his civilian job training sailors to shoot. 

The time and effort he puts into perfecting his skill eats up a lot of his personal time, but he has his reasons for doing it.

“I want to get better and be able to pass on what I’ve learned so the Marines can get the information without having to go through all that practice, and they can get it more quickly and directly,” he said.

The Marines on the team are long time members.  This gives them a chance to continue honing their skills over a longer period of time. 

“Because we are veteran shooters, we get better and are able to hold our own,” said Rhiel.

They proved their proficiency last year when they came out as the top Reserve team in the nation at the Camp Perry U.S. National Pistol Championships which are held every year at Camp Perry, Ohio.

The instructors who take on the challenge of serving on the shooting team see a greater good in being a student and a teacher of marksmanship.

“It makes a difference,” said Walker.  “Marines are taught a lot of things for combat, but in the end you have to outshoot the other guy.” 

The team is always looking to recruit any Reserve Marine who has excellent shooting skills and the maturity level to match it.  All interested applicants can contact Ryther at 845-591-4459 for a phone interview or e-mail him at