ABOARD USS BOXER (LHD 4)-- -- The sun near the equator is intense and scorching. For the Marines and Sailors of Command Element, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) the M9 9 mm pistol competition aboard the USS Boxer was nearly as heated.
The shooters showcased their small-arms prowess on the flight deck of the USS Boxer (LHD 4) under a cloudless sky, with little relief from the 90 plus degree temperature and sticky humidity. The prize for the two strongest shooters in the competition? A one night stay at a hotel on an island paradise when the 15th MEU (SOC) arrived in Hawaii.
The competition between the 18 participants was good natured yet serious, according to Gunnery Sgt Richard R. Lopez, Training Chief, 15th MEU (SOC). As with all Marine Corps exercises, safety was of prime importance, but fun was still the aim for the organizers.
The shooters had three courses of fire with silhouette targets at a distance of five, ten and twenty yards on the aircraft elevator of the USS Boxer (LHD 4). Aside from the chance to win a hotel room, the shooters fired to maintain their skill with the M9, according to Lopez, a Lompoc, CA. native.
■There was some good fun and camaraderie amongst the shooters. But any time a Marine gets to fire his weapon, he or she will always improve by staying familiar with it,■ Lopez said.
They also competed to earn the respect of their fellow Marines.
■At the end of the day, two of them even got bragging right■s over every body.■
The competition gave the Marines more than a chance at a free nights stay in Hawaii, it gave them an idea of their combat readiness with a pistol, according to Staff Sgt Henry W. Jackson, Maintenance Management Chief, 15th MEU (SOC).
Jackson, who took the prize by shooting best, was not fazed by the weather conditions during the shoot, but was thrown off a bit by the less than perfect footing aboard ship.
■The heat and humidity didn■t play too much of a factor during the shoot. What did were the boat rocking and the gust of winds when firing at the 20-yard line,■ said Jackson, a native of Anaheim, Calif.
Though he won, Jackson was not the only one in contention for the prize near the end of the shooting.
■All the other Marines who participated were outstanding. The difference between 1st and 5th place was one or two points, so it was anyone■s game until the final shot,■ Jackson said.
A tie between two shooters at the end of the competition was a fitting end to the event. A ten-second, ten-shot shoot-off determined the runner-up, with 1st Lt Stephen Peacock, Human Exploitation Team, Officer-In-Charge, 15th MEU (SOC) claiming second place.
■There are definitely some good shooters in the Command Element. The competition was very close,■ Peacock said.
There are many advantages to contests while aboard ship, according to Lopez, not the least of which is the bonds that are strengthened by the competition. Though another live fire competition is not scheduled before the 15th MEU (SOC) returns home later this month, the memories will last, according to Lopez.
■We got to see who the top notch shooters are and those who have what it takes to at least step up to the plate■ Lopez said. ■It■s great for morale because we got to do a little training and have fun at the same time with an award at the end, and bragging rights to boot.■
The 15th MEU (SOC) is completing a nine month deployment and is embarked aboard the USS Boxer (LHD 4), USS Dubuque (LPD 8) and the USS Comstock (LSD 45).