ABOARD USS BATAAN -- The tradition of Marine Corps marksmanship is a long and storied one -- from the days of leather-collared sharpshooters perched in the riggings of 18th and 19th Century Navy vessels, to the legendary Carlos Hathcock stalking North Vietnamese Army units through the jungles of Vietnam.
Honing their shooting skills for today's battlefields, hundreds of Marines from across the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been participating in Enhanced Marksmanship Program training from aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan.
Enhanced Marksmanship Program shoots have taken place on the flight deck of the Bataan, with Marines from every element of the MEU taking part.
Enhanced Marksmanship Program ranges are designed to simulate the unconventional, on-the-move feel of the close-quarter urban battles today's Corps continues to fight, said Gunnery Sgt. Patrick L. Lavender, the MEU's Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Chief who served as the lead instructor for the Command Element's training.
The aggressive combat stances, 90 and 180-degree pivot-and-fire techniques and the close proximity of targets are significant differences from traditional rifle ranges where every Marine completes annual marksmanship training, said Lavender.
"The rifle range makes every Marine into a rifleman," he explained. "(The Enhanced Marksmanship Program) makes a Marine into an independent shooter."
For Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron - 264 (Rein.), the ranges provided a welcome opportunity to break from a busy schedule that has had them working nearly twice the number of hours they work each day while at their home base in the U.S., said Lance Cpl. Kevin D. Sams, an AV-8B Harrier II avionics technician from Macon, Ga.
"It's great to get a chance to shoot," he said. "It's a great chance to get outside and get a change of pace from our normal day."
The benefits of the training to the squadron's Marines were almost immediately evident, said Sgt. Michael D. Monaco, a squad leader with Low Altitude Air Defense Platoon and the lead instructor for the squadron's EMP range.
"I noticed an almost 100-percent improvement from where they were at when they started," said the Glastonbury, Conn., native. "They had great attitude and enthusiasm through the whole [range]."
The Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU continue to take advantage of training opportunities here as the unit heads into U.S. European Command's area of responsibility.
For more information on the 26th MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.