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Shooters on Okinawa compete in Division Matches

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More than 150 Marines with a love and flair for shooting left their respective units to participate in the 109th Annual Far East Division Matches from Jan. 13 until today [1 February].

All Marines, regardless of their military occupational specialty, must qualify as at least marksmen annually and know the basic components of their rifles, to participate.

For some Marines, picking up an M16A2 rifle once a year to qualify is fine. For others, however, shooting is more than an annual fling. “Shooting is what I love,” said Cpl. Chad Wadsworth, a military policeman with MP Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “This is my second time shooting in the matches, and I’m having a great time.” The purpose of the competition, which was incorporated into the Marine Corps in 1901, is to enhance individual and team competitors’ confidence with their weapons and contribute to combat marksmanship, said Staff Sgt. Julio Mercedes, the range officer-in-charge for the matches. “The matches build esprit de corps and confidence among the shooters,” said Mercedes. “Competing also increases mission readiness, since the competitor has to concentrate on hitting their targets dead on.” The competition was organized into two days of individual fire and two days of team shooting with the M16A2 and M16A4 rifles and the M9 pistol. The participants, Marines who are at least a sharpshooter in marksmanship, are chosen by their units to compete. Winners are presented with medals at the end of the matches, said Mercedes. “Some of our top shooters have the opportunity to try out for the Marine Corps Shooting Team,” said Mercedes. “That prospect, coupled with the awards, gives the Marines an incentive to shoot their best when they’re out here.” For more than a century, the Far East Division Matches have annually served as a chance for talented shooters to demonstrate their skills and engage in friendly competition. Cpl. Michael Babiuch, a percussionist with the III MEF Band, said the matches also serve as a chance for those in non-infantry MOSs to show what they bring to the table. “A lot of Marines don’t have the chance to practice with rifles and pistols constantly,” he said. “The matches give us an opportunity to hone our skills and shoot competitively.” The Division Matches conclude today with an awards ceremony at Camp Hansen’s theater at 9 a.m.