CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan --
Within the Marine Corps, adaptability is paramount. The battlefield terrain is constantly changing, and Marines continue to stay focused on maintaining and maximizing their skills as riflemen. As the battlefield terrain constantly changes, so does the training.
The Marine Corps implemented the new Annual Rifle Qualification 10 months ago, replacing the Annual Rifle Training. During the new ARQ, Marines use standing, kneeling, and prone positions with artificial support to simulate positions in combat, improving proficiency as riflemen.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Matthew Mata, the Camp Hansen range staff noncommissioned officer in charge with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, said that Marines will earn a marksman, sharpshooter, or expert score during qualification. Mata explained that ART originally had 65 percent Marines as experts, but with the new ARQ, that score has gone down significantly to less than 20 percent. He said that it is important to have a distinct separation between the scores because it shows who is average and who is a master combat marksman.
During the three-day course of fire, the Marines learned how to utilize artificial support despite limited time to practice. They also reviewed how to combat glide while conducting a variety of reloading techniques. Additionally, the Marines gained comfortability while using artificial supports and maintaining stable marksmanship positions during the 200-yard line course of fire.
“The confidence in Marines has increased dramatically since the implementation of the new ARQ,” said Mata. “I was initially concerned about the implementations of smaller targets and the new shooting positions. After practicing the maneuvers, the Marines not only sharpened their marksmanship skills but have a newfound confidence in their abilities as riflemen.”
During the past ART, Marines would fire one round and immediately see a score ranging from one point through five points. In contrast during ARQ, Marines fire multiple rounds without seeing a score. In addition, the scoring system has developed in which a Marine can destroy a target, warranting a point; neutralize, or suppress both warranting a miss during each iteration. Despite the new ARQ course of fire, Marines can still expect to shoot from the 500-yard line to the 15-yard line. However, the appearance of the targets has changed to a static and moving target with smaller destroy zones, rendering the impact zone more difficult to hit.
“I found it challenging to shoot at a smaller target,” said Cpl. Charles Jenkins, a distribution management specialist with H&S Battalion, MCIPAC. “I think it is hard to only have two impact points: the head and the chest. When I started firing, I had to rely on my past training, along with the range coaches' instructions so I could succeed.”
At the beginning of the first day, the Marines started with performing a battlesight zero on their rifles. This is done to ensure the rifle can engage point targets from the 0–300-yard line, while under present wind conditions in the area. After finishing the BZO, the Marines fired from the 500-yard line down to the 15-yard line, all while wearing kevlar helmets, flak jackets, and rifle magazines, completing a practice range order of operations.
The second day was prequalification. Marines started at the 500-yard line and moved to the 100-yard line. While doing so, the Marines fired controlled pairs: two rounds fired, and sustained fire: multiple rounds fired. Once completing the 500-200-yard line course of fire, they continued to the 25 and 15-yard lines, aiming headshots, controlled pairs, and failure to stop drills from the 25-yard line to the 15-yard line. At the end of the day, Marines were presented with the opportunity to see their range scores, where they could decide if they wanted to continue firing on the third day or keep their prequal score.
“I like the new ARQ because it has a much faster pace and is streamlined,” said Jenkins. “I know that when Marines receive this training, it builds their confidence to perform in a combat scenario.”
Through the implementation of the new ARQ, the Marine Corps continues to show its adaptability and lethality, not only in long-range but also in its rapid short-range marksmanship. The ARQ shows the Marines, but also the rest of the world, that Marines train like they fight, and fight as they train. Marines are known for their skills behind a rifle and the new ARQ sustains and sharpens those skills.