MARINE BARRACKS, Washington, D.C. -- It’s 6:10 am. The sun has yet to rise. The snow on the ground hasn’t begun to show signs of melting away. Weather conditions might play a significant role in the weeks’ training evolution. A bus full of Marines from Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., pulls into the shooters’ parking lot on Marine Corps Base Quantico. Among these Marines are a few who are somewhat strangers to the rifle range the Marines of "The Commandant’s Own" Drum and Bugle Corps, getting ready for their annual rifle qualification with the M-16A2 service rifle.
As an annual training requirement, every Marine must qualify on the rifle range using a known distance, or KD range. Marines from all walks of the Corps show up early in the morning to participate in the range, leaving behind the comforts of their offices, warehouses, and for the Marines of D & B, the rehearsal hall and drum room.
KD-1 kicked off Dec. 3, which was a normal day for range personnel. A few marksmanship classes here, a little snapping in there and the day would be over. Sounds like a good day to range personnel, but some of the shooters had a difference of opinion.
"I was miserable the first week of the range," admitted Lance Cpl. Krystle A. Kilmer, a soprano in the D & B. "I haven’t been on the range since boot camp, so I wasn’t properly prepared. The second week was a lot better, I went out and purchased some gear to help me cope with the cold weather."
All the Marines present dealt with the cold their own way. Some wore layers while others used mind over matter to block out the cold. Marines were covered from head to toe with sniffle gear, which was acceptable by range personnel as long as the shooters weren’t on the firing line and the gear didn’t interfere with range safety procedures.
"The Marines out here on the range are authorized to wear any gear they are issued," said Sgt. David A. Marino, Line Noncommissioned Officer of Range Two. "Safety is the most important thing on the range; as long as the Marines don’t come out with gear that is eccentric or impedes safety, they are fine."
Most of the shooters on the range have shot before, but for the Marines of D & B, this was the first time many have shot since they attended boot camp. Due to the many ceremonial commitments of the D and B, the Marines seldom have a chance to go to the rifle range and are not required to qualify. For some it’s only been a year since boot camp, but others have been waiting several years to go to the rifle range.
"I haven’t been to the rifle range in three years," said Sgt. Leeland E. Jordon, a contrabass bugler for D & B. “In boot camp, I qualified expert with the rifle. Being that so much time has passed I thought I’d forgotten most of my marksmanship knowledge, but after the classes the first week it all came back to me and I shot expert again."
The shooters from D & B were motivated to be on the range and the change in atmosphere was also welcomed. Whether it was for the love of being a Marine, being on the range, the love of shooting, or simply to get rid of a pizza box - they showed the attitude of all Marines - a rifleman first.