Changes to annual rifle training put Marines on target
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — It’s been six months since the Marine Corps implemented new yearly rifle range training standards, and according to a range officer here, the service is right on target.
“This is the best thing to happen to marksmanship since gunpowder,” said Chief Warrant Officer Martin Dankanich, the Known Distance Range Officer.
The new standards came about during a 2005 conference of Marine marksmanship experts, including range officers and infantry weapons officers, Dankanich said. The prior way of doing things taught Marines marksmanship fundamentals, but “we failed to train Marines on rapid response,” he said. The result of the expert conference: More close quarter combat firing.
The first change took “Table 1” — the annual requalification course of firing at 200-, 300- and 500-yards — back to a previous standard.
Dankanich said around 1993 the scoring went from a possible 250 points using one- through five-point scoring rings to hit-or-miss scoring with 65 points possible. The 1993 change required only a 25 percent score — down from 76 percent — to qualify at the lowest category of marksman, he said.
That change didn’t apply to new recruits and officers in training, who still fired the old course.
“For 12 years we had recruits and new lieutenants being held to a higher standard,” Dankanich said. “The hit-or-miss concept was great, but too easy to pass.”
While the change back to the 250-point scoring was good, Dankanich said the implementation of “Table 2” was even better.
Table 2 is what was once referred to as “field firing” — the day after qualification, where Marines would fire at closer range and moving targets. The field firing was required, but no score was kept.
Table 2 now counts, and Marines must hit a certain percentage depending on their distance to keep their Table 1 requalification score, Dankanich said.
“You can shoot expert (220 or higher) on Wednesday and if you fail Table 2, you will be reduced to a marksman, 190,” he said.
Table 2 now is two days long and includes firing multiple shots at two targets and moving targets in a limited time, Dankanich said.
“I enjoyed it … it was good,” Capt. Ethan Featherly, a KC-130 pilot with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, said of the new Table 2. “I think it’s well worth the time and effort. It makes Marines more comfortable with the weapon and it’s better to shoot in a more realistic situation … I don’t know how often we’ll be firing from 500 yards.”
The new range also includes Tables 3 and 4, which include more technology. Table 3 soon will be mandatory and includes some portions of the old unknown distance range, low-light firing and firing while wearing a gas mask. Table 4, Dankanich said, is more advanced and is “infantry specific,” but will be fired by deploying units.
While the 2005 changes are a great improvement, Dankanich said, training probably will get better after the experts meet again in August.
“We want to develop an institutional training package that allows the Marines to display the ability while improving,” he said. “If we make a couple of changes here and there, we will have a program to last us a century.”