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Sgt. Scott M. Furseth, a combat marksmanship trainer with the Carlos Hathcock Range Complex aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, offers advice to Lance Cpl. Inocencio Torres, an administrative clerk with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, MCAS Miramar, during the table one section of rifle qualification at the range. Combat marksmanship trainers help supervise the coaches and shooters in addition to relaying messages to the tower. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin) (Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

The History behind the hat

22 Oct 2008 | Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

Marine Corps combat marksmanship coaches have trained Marines for generations on several weapons, from the Springfield M1903 during World War I to the modern M-16A2 presently used in Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Their mentoring has helped leathernecks hit their targets with accuracy and contributed to their successes and victories against numerous foes. Marine coaches with the Carlos Hathcock Range Complex here help qualify hundreds of shooters each month with the Marine Corps’ current arsenal of the M-16 A2 rifle and M9 Pistol. Coaches are responsible for helping to make Marines better shooters while making sure the firing line remains safe.

“It’s good to know you are helping Marines become better marksmen,” said Sgt. Julian R. Brown, a coach here. “It gets frustrating when those one or two shooters can’t hit their target. But it is rewarding when they qualify with a higher score than they had before. As a coach, I’ve improved my marksmanship skills and it has taught me to be a better leader.”

The Marines learn the fundamentals of marksmanship through a three-week coaches’ course here. The coaches improve on their shooting in both pistol and rifle. The curriculum emphasizes mentoring and helps the new coaches develop teaching skills to help future shooters hit their mark. They also learn how to properly use a rifle combat optic and the fundamentals of shooting.

“In the early 1900’s, the Marine Corps saw the tangibles to a well placed shot,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric G. Brayman, the officer-in-charge at the range complex here. “The best Marine shooters would compete against the best civilians. After returning from the matches to their units, the shooters would teach their fellow Marines how to shoot better. They became the first unofficial coaches”

After several decades, the “coach” billet became a secondary military occupational specialty. The knowledge underneath their pith helmets has helped Marines can become better shooters for more than 100 years.

“In the past few years I shot expert because the coaches helped me reinforce all the fundamentals,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Cox, the maintenance chief for Combat Logistics Company 11, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “For five years I shot marksman on qualification day. Before, I had good breath control and posture but no trigger control.”

Marine coaches shoot the rifle and pistol as often as possible to keep their marksmanship skills fresh.

“Whenever we aren’t coaching we are fixing targets, keeping ourselves up to date with annual requirements and training with our weapons,” said Sgt. Jorge Hernandez, a chief instructor with the Marine Corps combat marksmanship coaches course here. “One of the most common mistakes good shooters make is they form bad habits, but remedial shooting can help prevent that.”

Marines interested in becoming a coach can speak with the training section of their command to coordinate an opportunity.

“Marines pride themselves in the way they shoot,” said Brayman. “If you ask anyone from foreign military what Marines are known for, it is the way they shoot. We train them to meet that high standard of accuracy. The global war on terrorism has made it very personal, the importance of one shot, one kill.”


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3rd Marine Aircraft Wing