MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- San Diego Marines and Sailors participated in annual training with the Marine Corps’ newest pistol qualification program at the Carlos Hathcock Range Complex aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., July 29.
The Combat Pistol Program, implemented October 2013, allows marksmanship instructors Corpswide to make training more realistic for thousands of Marines, Sailors and Marine Corps civilian police officers who qualify annually.
The program focuses on firing multiple shots from close distances, rapid reloading and remediating weapons safety skills. These skills ensure service members and Marine Corps civilian police officers remain ready to protect themselves and others in the line of duty.
“We train as we fight,” said Sgt. Cameron Garrett, marksmanship instructor and pistol range noncommissioned officer in charge at the Carlos Hathcock Range Complex, and a Fort Worth, Texas native. “We have to be ready for anything that could come up in combat.”
The new program includes shooters drawing their M9 Berretta pistol from a holster and firing on a target, and then holding their pistol in a ready position while searching and assessing the area around them for more threats.
“No one is going to [hold] their pistol at a [ready position] at all times, especially when you have to run, jump, climb over walls or help another Marine off the ground,” said Garrett. “You need to be able to pull your weapon from the holster, aim and neutralize the threat as quickly and accurately as possible.”
The program also utilizes a new type of target. Shooters fire at an armed, human-shaped silhouette from 7-, 15- and 25-yard distances. Initially, coaches explain to the shooters how to engage the targets properly. Then, once the targets turn to face them, shooters open fire, allowing the Marines to train in a way that is more realistic to what may occur in a combat environment.
“This simulates the enemy popping out from around a corner, [out] from cover and even opening a door,” said Garrett. “Once they engage that enemy and neutralize the threat, [Marines] don’t go back into ‘Oh, I’m safe’ mode and put their pistol away. We try to teach them to maintain that alertness, observe their surroundings, in front of and behind themselves, and ensure that they are in no immediate danger before they [holster] their weapon.”
Coaches still teach the fundamentals of the weapon system: how to handle, aim, fire and maintain the weapon. They also emphasize being vigilant.
“I like the fact that it’s more combat oriented because this is actually what you would do, rather than just marksmanship training in a combat environment,” said Gunnery Sgt. Daryl Porter, aircraft survivability equipment coordinator and LITENING Targeting Pod coordinator with the Aviation Logistics Department, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “The last range was a lot slower paced and there was no stress to it. With this new program, there is stress, similar to what you might feel in combat, so there is more intensity and pressure on you to perform like in a combat situation. If you instill reality into your training, then you perform like you train, and if you’re training right, then you’re good.”
Marines, Sailors and civilian police officers attending training at the pistol range can expect to participate in the new program, which will better help them employ the M9 Berretta pistol.