WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy Marksmanship Team (USNMT) is looking for new members to participate in Navy and inter-service rifle and pistol matches. All active-duty Sailors and Reservists are welcomed and encouraged to participate.
"Sailors receive limited small arms training as they process through Navy Individual Augmentee Training at various U.S. Army training centers," said Cmdr. Mick Glancey, USNMT officer in charge and captain of the rifle team. "All Sailors serving IA tours are issued a service rifle (M-16) or a service pistol (M9), some receive both prior to deployment. Small arms marksmanship is a basic fundamental skillset all our Sailors are required to possess."
The USNMT is the leading proponent of small arms marksmanship and safety training for U.S. Navy personnel. Each year, the team conducts the U.S. Fleet Forces Command (Atlantic and Pacific) Rifle and Pistol Matches, where hundreds of Sailors are trained in service rifle and service pistol marksmanship. Sailors participating in fleet matches represent their commands in individual and team events, earn marksmanship medals and badges, and qualify to stand armed watches aboard ships and at other commands.
USNMT also conducts the annual All Navy Rifle and Pistol Championships, in which the top 100 Sailors who have fired qualifying scores in fleet matches compete. As members of the rifle and pistol teams, the top 20 Sailors from each coast represent the Navy in the annual Interservice Rifle and Pistol Matches, the Civilian Marksmanship Program's National Rifle and Pistol Matches, and the National Rifle Association's National Rifle and Pistol Championships.
Both fleet matches begin with classroom and range training to familiarize shooters of all skill levels with safety and proper practices on the range as well as the fundamentals of marksmanship. Then the shooting starts. There are warm-up matches before the 600-point rifle match fired at distances of 200, 300 and 500 yards and the 600 point pistol match fired one-handed from 25 and 50 yards.
Competitors also shoot in both pistol and rifle excellence-in-competition (EIC) matches. EIC competitions are qualification matches in which competitors earn "leg points" toward the Distinguished Marksman and the Distinguished Pistol Shot badges.
Last year's Atlantic Fleet Grand Aggregate winner, with the highest Navy combined rifle and pistol scores during the fleet matches, was Lt. Richard Ray of Commander, Submarine Forces, with a score of 1056-13X.
Ray, who began his career in competitive shooting in 1994 after spotting a co-worker wearing a silver (8-point) EIC medal on his uniform, also served as the pistol match director.
"The Navy shooting team is the Navy's best-kept secret," said Ray, referring to the low-profile, all-volunteer nature of the Navy's competitive marksmanship program, but the team wants to change that.
"We want to get the word out to everybody," said Glancey. "We want more new shooters to come out and participate in the matches."
Sailors do not have to be experienced shooters to benefit from competitive shooting-nor do they even need to own firearms.
Throughout the match season, Naval Sea Systems Command Crane Division provides an armorer's van with match grade rifles, pistols, ammunition, and a workshop where a group of veteran gunsmiths build and maintain these precision firearms for Navy shooters. They even have all the small gear for matches like spotting scopes, shooting coats, mats, and folding stools used to carry gear up and down the 500-yard rifle range.
"Most shooters buy their own gear once they get involved in the sport, but if you don't already own the guns and gear, it's best to try competing before you buy so you're sure of getting what you need," said Lt. Eric Palmer a member of the team who got his start like most Navy shooters-he heard about a match and decided he wanted to shoot. "Once you've shot for a while and are ready to buy your own equipment and guns, there are a lot of manufacturers that offer discounts to team members on rifles, ammunition, and just about everything else you need."
Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Evan Cruz, a Reservist from Bronx, N.Y., shot his way to the national matches with borrowed gear. He purchased his first competition rifle at Camp Perry the day before the President's Match started.
"We've had shooters shoot their whole careers with a van rifle," said Master Chief Utilities Constructionman Scott Hancock. "They just keep track of the rifle number and shoot the same one at every match."
One common area of confusion for Sailors wanting to shoot is how to join the team. It couldn't be easier. The Navy Marksmanship Unit is not a commissioned unit of the Navy. It has no unit identification code and there are no billets. Team leadership is a collateral duty and team membership is entirely voluntary. The Navy team doesn't hire professional shooters like the Army Marksmanship Unit and it doesn't have permanent change of station assignments like the Marine Corps team. It is made entirely of Sailors who love to shoot and want to compete.
Joining the Navy and shooting either of the Fleet Forces Command matches is the same thing. Interested shooters need to read the annual message, announcing match dates and locations, that came out recently and contact their commands to request orders to attend. The annual match announcement message and team details may be found at the team Web site www.usnst.org.
Depending on funding availability, Active-duty Sailors may have to pay some of their travel and messing expenses out of pocket.
Reservists can use any type or combination of orders, with command approval. However, if funding is unavailable, some Reservists do have to come on unpaid annual training orders.
For more news, visit www.navy.mil.