Photo Information

Staff Sgt. James P. Otis sites in his M4 Carbine service rifle at Range 111 here. Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit attended a course taught by civilians with I Marine Expeditionary Force, Special Operations Training Group designed to prepare Marines for real life combat scenarios. Otis is a Marine air-ground task force planner with the 13th MEU.

Photo by Sgt. Wayne Edmiston

Fighting 13th kicks off training camp with Gunfighter Course

8 Apr 2008 | Sgt. Wayne Edmiston

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a U.S. Marine and his rifle!” said Army General John “Blackjack” Pershing, the general of the armies during World War I.

Nearly 100 years later, when Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit lined up at Range 111 their job was to confirm the General’s words as a fit beginning to the MEU’s “Training Camp.”          

“The course consisted of training in marksmanship techniques necessary to fight and win in various combat environments,” explained Cpl. Fernando A. Brea, an intelligence analyst with the 13th MEU.

The training is taught by civilians from Special Operations Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and is designed to prepare Marines for realistic combat scenarios. Many of the civilians are former Special Forces operators from all services and have more than 100 years of combined experience.

For the instructors, the service rifle is like an appendage of their own body in which they understand every piece and function. This knowledge was passed down to current Marines in the course.

“The general atmosphere of the entire course was great. The instructors were relaxed and that made for an ideal training environment,” Brea, a Union City, N.J., native explained.

The course also served as a change of pace from the Known Distance Course, the basic marksmanship training every Marine attends annually.

“It was an opportunity to get a lot of rounds on target while applying marksmanship fundamentals with a tactical mindset,” said Staff Sgt. James P. Otis, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force planner with the 13th MEU. “The course covered different shooting scenarios that most non-combat arms Marines do not get exposed to outside of (initial combat training).”

As a combat experienced leader, Otis knows that this type of training is valuable on a new and dynamic battlefield.

“The main focus, as with almost all training that we conduct as Marines, is to improve survivability on the battlefield,” the Salt Lake City native explained. “This is one area that we separate ourselves as Marines in providing more skills that are not required, but makes us more prepared no matter what we may face.”

The focus of the course is to build confidence. It forces Marines to make split second, instinctual decisions on the firing line that when faced with the enemy.

“After attending this course, I feel I am confident, proficient and precise with the M4 (carbine service rifle) and M9 (pistol),” Brea explained.

Whether it was Pershing’s Marines running through the thick French forests of Belleau Wood or Marines of today patrolling the towering mountains of Afghanistan, the Gunfighter Course will keep Blackjack’s words a living testament to the Marines’ continued proficiency.


13th Marine Expeditionary Unit