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Marines from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, shoot in a pistol competion during the Western Division Matches aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 4, 2016. The Western Division Matches are part of a Marine Corps wide competition designed for self-improvement in marksmanship in order to improve Marines’ combat readiness. The winners of each regional competition will go to compete in the national match held aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C

Photo by Courtesy Photo

Shooting for the Gold

14 Mar 2016 | Cpl. Ian Leones Marine Corps Forces Reserves

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, received medals during the Western Division Matches aboard Camp Pendleton, California, March 4, 2016.

Staff Sgt. Justin L. Santiago, communications maintenance chief with Headquarters and Services Co., 2/23, received the gold medal for the rifle competition and a bronze medal for the pistol competition, and Cpl. Alvin H. Mei, an electro-optical ordnance repairer with H and S Co., received a gold medal for the pistol competition.

"I wasn't really expecting to win," said Mei. "I just wanted a chance to come out here, learn from the best shooters in the Marine Corps, and have fun.”

The Western Division Matches are part of a Marine Corps wide program designed to stimulate Marines’ interests and desires for self-improvement in marksmanship, and to enhance proficiency within the Marine Corps in the use of individual small arms through advanced marksmanship training and competition. Participants received a two week training course that fulfills annual rifle and pistol qualification requirements.

“Training for the division matches consists of a lot of snap-in and classes, similar to annual rifle and pistol training, but more in depth,” said Santiago. “We learned the division match course of fire for rifle and pistol the first week and we shot those every day in order to prepare for the competition.”

After the first week of classroom instruction, live-fire training and preliminary matches, the shooters moved directly into a second week of rifle, pistol and team competitions.

"The top 10 percent from every competition will earn medals,” said Santiago. “After that, units get to choose their top shooters to represent them come team day."

These matches provide world-class instruction from members of the Marine Corps shooting team. Participating Marines receive a unique training opportunity that they wouldn’t be able to receive through their annual training requirements.

"I learned how to shoot one-handed," said Mei. "I had never shot like this before, so it did teach me a lot. Especially with the time limits and the rapid fire, it taught me to pace my shots and focus a little bit more on the sight-picture process."

With 38 training days a year, it is difficult for Reserve Marines to match the training time of their active duty counterparts, so they must make every training opportunity count.

“The Marines’ performance speaks to their professionalism and dedication toward doing a good job,” said Maj. Andrew Orth, the assistant operations officer for H and S Co. “They spent a fair bit of time prior to the competition going through the combat marksmanship coaches and trainer courses. That dedication to training is what really got these Marines this far.”

With the accomplishment of medaling in these matches, the Marines will go on to compete in the Marine Corps Championship program held at Camp Lejeune.

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