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Lance Cpl. Thomas Plowman of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion fires a round during the Far East Marksmanship Competition at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022.

Lance Cpl. Thomas Plowman of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion fires a round during the Far East Marksmanship Competition at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Marines from Japan and South Korea are testing their shooting skills at the Far East Marksmanship Competition, a 10-day event that concludes Thursday.

The competition drew 158 competitors to the Camp Hansen range, among them Lance Cpl. Thomas Plowman, 25, of Croswell, Mich., an electrician with the 9th Engineer Support Battalion on Okinawa.

“You’re never really an expert with shooting because you’re always getting a little bit better every time, or a little bit worse, depending on how much you’re putting into it,” he said Wednesday during a break on the pistol range. “It’s one of those things where you always get out what you put in.”

Marines from five regions around the world compete each year with pistols and rifles, as individuals and in teams, in precision shooting and shooting on the move, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Hagan, the officer-in-charge of Hansen’s marksmanship training center.

This year, the Marines added night shooting and shooting at moving, autonomous robotic targets made by Marathon Targets of Huntsville, Ala., to the competition.

A Marine takes aim at a target 160 yards away during the Far East Marksmanship Competition at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022.

A Marine takes aim at a target 160 yards away during the Far East Marksmanship Competition at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Lance Cpl. Thomas Plowman of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion fires a round during the Far East Marksmanship Competition at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022.

Lance Cpl. Thomas Plowman of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion fires a round during the Far East Marksmanship Competition at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Marines may qualify for marksmanship badges and earn individual awards. The top 10% of shooters by score are invited to the Marine Corps Championships from March 28 to April 7 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Hagan said.

Cpl. Bela Szabo, 22, of Virginia Beach, Va., said he loves shooting and wanted to test himself against other Marines and units. Szabo, from 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, is the only reconnaissance Marine in this year’s competition.

“I’m out here representing my company, Force Company, and I’m also representing my platoon, Force-1, back at 3rd, so I’m going to try really hard to get first and win this competition for them and everyone in my unit,” Szabo said during a break in offhand rifle shooting.

Marine Cpl. Bela Szabo of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion fires a round during the Far East Marksmanship Competition at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022.

Marine Cpl. Bela Szabo of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion fires a round during the Far East Marksmanship Competition at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

A target at the Camp Hansen pistol range is marked with bullet holes during the Far East Marksmanship Competition on Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022.

A target at the Camp Hansen pistol range is marked with bullet holes during the Far East Marksmanship Competition on Okinawa, Dec. 7, 2022. (Matthew M. Burke/Stars and Stripes)

Reconnaissance Marines are some of the best shooters in the service because they are constantly shooting, Szabo said. Winning the competition would be “a very respectable achievement,” but he isn’t looking past anyone.

“I would say I’m an advanced shooter just because of the training I’ve had and been able to get through being a recon Marine,” Szabo said. “But I’ve seen other Marines in units that don’t specialize in shooting and they’re phenomenal shooters, so I think it really comes down to the individual and how much work you put into it.”

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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