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Marines dash 25-yards before firing in the stand and kneeling in 11 seconds during the Special Operations Training Group’s Close Quarters Tactics course Aug. 31, on Stone Bay’s Multi Purpose Range. The course is part of a pipeline of courses, conducted by SOTG, meant to prepare the Marines for the missions they may conduct while deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein

Marines fire thousands of rounds during Close Quarters Tactics Course

7 Sep 2011 | Sgt. Richard Blumenstein 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Before Marines fast rope behind enemy lines, blowup doors, or engage high value targets; they have to learn to shoot, and shoot well.

How well? Firing 15,000 to 22,000 rounds a day, divvied up between 44 Marines and Sailors, over the course of five-weeks, well.

“It takes a couple thousand times of doing something before you start doing it on your own without hesitating,” said Capt. Travis Beyer, the officer-in-charge of the Close Quarters Tactics course and Visit Board Search and Seizure course with Special Operations Training Group.

Marines and Sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Force Reconnaissance Platoon and elements from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment spent Aug. 31, shooting paper targets, on Stone Bay’s Multipurpose Range.

The day of shooting was part of SOTG’s five-week CQT course. The course is part of a pipeline of courses, conducted by SOTG, meant to prepare the Marines for any type of mission they may conduct with the 24th MEU where they engage enemy combatants, according to Beyer.

The course focuses on enhancing the service members’ combat marksmanship and ability to fire under stress. Throughout the course, the Marines fire thousands of bullets from both rifles and pistols, during numerous drills, all while under the constant observation of instructors focused on making them better marksmen.

“Daily they are being evaluated by instructors,” Beyer said. “The instructors evaluate them, talk to them, coach them, and mentor them on their individual techniques and procedures on the range.”

During the day of training, the Marines stood on a line, each donning a full combat-load, and they shot their weapons from the three, five, seven, 15, 25 and 50-yard-lines.

They shot in the standing, kneeling, and prone position. They shot moving forwards and backwards. They even trained to shoot impromptu on each other’s targets if a fellow Marine’s weapon stopped working.

The service members fired drills called off by an instructor running the range. They received time limits of mere seconds during the drills, forcing them to react quickly. One drill involved them to sprint 25-yards and fire from both the standing and kneeling position in 11 seconds.

“Just in the repetition of week one I’ve gotten a lot better at the simple things that we’re expected to do,” said 2nd Lt. Samuel Ryder, an infantry officer. “Speed reloading, covering each other when guns go down, things like that.”

The course also emphasizes a number of skills associated with combat shooting. The service members constantly practice weapons transitioning, speed reloading and handling weapons stoppages in the course.

“You can sit here and go through a speed reload once, and you can say, ‘they’ve done it once that’s all they need,’ but if they don’t do another speed reload for another six months, those fundamentals are gone,” said Sgt. Christopher Whited, a CQT instructor. “You’ve got to keep building those basics. You have to do it over, and over, and over to build that muscle memory.”

This stage of the course serves to prepare them for the coming weeks where they will shoot rounds as fire teams, squads and platoons inside Stone Bay’s Shoot House. Before firing in the shoot house, each week the Marines will have to pass a test, which mirrors the shooting fundamentals they train on early in the course.