Why I compete: Marine Corps Master Sgt. Marc Chaplin
Why I compete: Marine Corps Master Sgt. Marc Chaplin
CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- As his heart beats at a slow and controlled tempo, warm blood rushes from his chest to his fingertips on a cold afternoon. While in the prone, he peers through the scope with his rifle in hand. He keeps his eye steady on the target as he looks past the blades of grass swaying and the trees rustling in the wind. He thinks back to the fundamentals of marksmanship and takes a controlled breath; he pulls the trigger steadily and smoothly at the release.
Every Marine is a rifleman, but the competitors in the annual Marine Corps Marksmanship Competition Far East are some of the Marine Corps’ finest shooters. Among the participants was Master Sgt. Marc Chaplin who showcased his marksmanship, combat readiness, and proficiency with a rifle and pistol on Camp Hansen, Dec. 13.
“The whole point of this program is for shooters at all levels to become better through competition shooting,” said Chaplin, a base range staff noncommissioned officer in charge with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “I continue learning things every time I shoot and Marines who have shot for a while, like myself, can go back to their units and pass that knowledge on to younger Marines. This ultimately enhances the force and makes us better warfighters.”
During the competition, Chaplin practiced the five marksmanship fundamentals: aiming the firearm, steady breath control, weapon movement manipulation, trigger pull consistency, and proper firing follow-through procedures.
“I came out to the competition because this is something I love to do,” he said. “I started shooting competitively in 2006 when I was at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina as a combat marksmanship coach. Every time I get to shoot, I’ll shoot. This is my sixth competition.”
Throughout the several competitions Chaplin has competed in he has been the recipient of various medals and trophies as a team and as an individual. He was on the Parris Island Rifle Shooting Team where his team won the Edson and Elliot team trophy for pistol matches in 2006 and in 2007 for rifle matches. In 2010 he won the distinguished marksman rifle and then distinguished marksman pistol in 2018.
“This competition is important because it brings competitiveness into the shooting world,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Zappone, a small arms weapons instructor with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “In this event, a Marine who enjoys shooting can learn new skills but can also come out here and compete.”
Marines first practiced marksmanship fundamentals throughout the two-week competition through the advanced pistol and rifle movement drills. This was followed by the competitors accumulating time-based points as a team and individuals.
Marines who score in the top 10 percent of the competition will receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal and then move on to the Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship followed by, if they win, the opportunity to shoot on the Marine Corps Shooting Team.
“I am still learning things; that's absolutely what motivates me,” said Chaplin. “I learn a lot every time I come out here, like fundamentals, barrel flex, and a lot of the moving and shooting speed. Overall, I just want to have fun of course, but also do the best I possibly can.”
The most challenging part of the competition for him was transitioning to a new style of shooting, due to the new annual rifle qualification. He explains that he appreciates the new requirements because of how Marines fight in battle. It provides him with a broader understanding of marksmanship and how even for experienced shooters, marksmanship requires repetition and practice to improve.
“We are Marines, and this is what we do best,” said Zappone. “These are the Marines we will call upon to defend our nation, and there is no better way to refine our skills than competing. We are all riflemen at the end of the day.”
Chaplin additionally explains that these competitions make him a better Marine through discipline. Just as a physical fitness test requires effort and training, the same is true for shooting. Marksmanship is a perishable skill and it takes consistent practice and discipline to remain proficient.
“I would say to the younger Marines that a lot of Marines, including myself, did not know a lot about the shooting competition or what the Marine Corps Shooting Team is,” said Chaplin. “The goal is exposure. I would not say the goal is to shoot on the Marine Corps Shooting Team or win a medal. All that stuff is great, but the real goal is to improve marksmanship skills. That was at least mine when I first competed, and I think it should be every individual's goal. As long as you improve yourself and pass it along to your Marines, that's what matters.”
U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Marc Chaplin, a base range noncommissioned officer in charge with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, combat glides while conducting a series of drills in preparation for the Marine Corps Marksmanship Competition Far East on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 9, 2021. During the competition, Marines practiced marksmanship on multiple courses of fire while conducting advanced pistol and rifle movement drills to accumulate scored points as a team and as individuals. The Marines with a score in the top 10 percentile will receive a medal and advance to other competitions. The competition is held annually to improve Marines’ marksmanship fundamentals, combat readiness, and proficiency with both rifle and pistol.
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