For the second year in a row, Marines from the 8th Marine Corps District earned top honors at the Depot Competition In Arms Program that ended Feb. 12 at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The Marines places first for rifle, first for pistol and second for the Gunner's Cup, a movement-to-contact type of drill, during the competition.
Staff Sgt. Alex C. Trujano, a marksmanship competitor and recruiter assigned to Recruiting Substation Harlingen near San Antonio, Texas, said most people have this idea that recruiters never train. They are just on the streets all day worrying about contracts. The competition was a chance for Trujano and his fellow team members to prove they had a good eye not just for qualified applicants, but for perfect sight alignment and sight picture.
The team was pulled from their normal duties based on their previous performance as recruiters and on the range. Some of them were competitive shooting veterans, some combat veterans, too. They competed against more than 100 shooters in 17 teams including local Marines at the Weapons Field Training Battalion, some drill instructors and San Diego and other Marines from recruiting districts around the Western Recruiting Region.
"We went out there against a lot of Marines who do this type of training on a daily basis," said Trujano. "It felt great to show everyone that not only can we all shoot, we can take 1st place, too."
Aside from the main awards, some team members earned individual awards. Sgt. Christopher S. Starks, an officer selection assistant assigned to Officer Selection Station Fort Collins in Colorado, earned 2nd Place for individual pistol and 3rd Place for grand aggregate combined rifle and pistol score. Staff Sgt. Oscar Martinez, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Recruiting Substation Beaumont near Houston, Texas, earned 3rd Place for individual pistol. Sgt. Charles L. Trimble, a recruiter assigned to Recruiting Substation East Tucson in Arizona, earned the Pistol Tyro Award by earning the highest score among first-time competitors.
"Honestly, no one was training for the competition before we were actually there," said Starks. "It had been two years since I last picked up a rifle. But as most of us found, it was like riding a bike. You get back on it and pick up on it really quickly. The foundation will always be there."
It wasn't the fist time Starks had competed on the range. He said he welcomed the opportunity to meet fellow Marines at a cold Edson Range at 6 a.m. each day, hearing the age-old complaints about bad weather and early risings. Those conditions said to somehow, through enough collective whining, breed freakish camaraderie among Marines, Hallmark moments, though no one would be able to explain why or how.
"I truly missed meeting new Marines from different backgrounds and being able to compete with them and then joke around some too. At work, I just talk to civilians all day. Sounds weird, but it was really nice to be back on a base with Marines I had just barely met. We had a pretty tight team and our colonel was gunning for us to do well - we did," Starks said.