Senior drill instructor shoots for success
By Cpl. Ethan E. Rocke
| | January 22, 2003
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
In the mind of a 7-year-old boy, remarkable tales of valor and heroism can sometimes lack the elements required to captivate a young child.
Throw a live 22-caliber rifle and some target practice into the mix and the level of interest increases significantly.
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey R. Craig, senior drill instructor, Platoon 3143, Company K, said he remembers his grandfather teaching him how to shoot when he was a young boy, but he was too young to truly understand his grandfather's legacy as a Marine.
Craig's grandfather, Sgt. Maj. William P. Torpey, fought in World War II and the Korean War as an infantryman. He was a recipient of the Navy Cross for actions at Iwo Jima, and preceded his grandson as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.
Craig, a Pittsburgh native, said he regrets not being old enough to appreciate and inquire about his grandfather's achievements as a Marine before he passed away, but he is thankful Torpey planted the seed that would grow into a passion for competitive marksmanship.
"You get a bug for competitive shooting," said the blue-eyed Marine. "Once you shoot in a match, it's as if you become addicted to the sport."
Craig served as a member of the Marine Corps Rifle Team for a year before reporting to Drill Instructor School here.
He said he has met the challenges of marksmanship competition at various levels including national competition, always with enthusiasm.
During his time with the 'big team,' as he affectionately refers to the Marine Corps Rifle Team, Craig earned a gold, a silver and a bronze medal for rifle marksmanship in competition, as well as a bronze medal in pistol competition.
According to Craig, within the Marine Corps' community of competitive marksmen, there is a common goal among the best of the best to become distinguished marksman with the rifle or a distinguished pistol shot.
Winning medals like Craig's is the key to attaining this status, with each medal holding a specific point value.
Gold medals are worth 10 points, silver - eight points and bronze - six points. Competitors must earn 30 points in order to become distinguished marksmen. Craig is currently six points shy of becoming a distinguished marksman with the rifle, and he has 14 points toward becoming a distinguished pistol shot.
"Every Marine's goal in competitive marksmanship is to become distinguished," said Craig. "You always want to perform better. It's as if your score is never good enough."
Craig left the big team for drill instructor duty in October 2000, but despite the longer hours and limited free time drill instructors experience, he was not willing to kick his addiction to competitive shooting.
Craig earned himself a position on the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Rifle/Pistol Team shortly after reporting to Co. K in January 2001. He has balanced his duties on the drill field with his commitment to the team ever since.
"I've spent every break between training cycles and countless weekends competing and working with the Depot team," he said.
According to Craig, he feels humbled and thankful that his reputation as a strong competitor preceded him here and made for a smooth transition from the Marine Corps Rifle Team to the Depot team.
"He came highly recommended from some very distinguished members of the Marine Corps shooting community," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Billy R. Williamson, range officer, Charlie range, Weapons and Field Training Battalion.
According to Williamson, one of those recommendations came from Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock III, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Marine Corps Rifle Team. Hathcock III is son of famed Vietnam sniper Carlos Hathcock Jr., and a very reputable member of the Marine Corps competitive shooting community.
"Through recommendations and his individual performance (Craig) made a name for himself as kind of a go-to guy," said Williamson. "He's been a vital member of our team in local, state, and interservice championships."
Williamson said he recalls occasions in which Craig's performance has been the distinguishing factor between victory and defeat for the Depot team.
Craig's commitment to excellence is not limited to his performance as a competitive marksman.
"Being a competitive shooter has made me a better drill instructor," said the energetic 28-year-old. "The same attention to detail, concentration and focus I have shooting is just as important on the drill field."
Craig constantly displays a strong work ethic and sense of dedication to his duties as a drill instructor, according to Staff Sgt. Marc S. Whitehurst, former drill instructor, Co. K.
"His struggle to achieve excellence and refusal to accept anything less is present in everything he does," said Whitehurst. "His standard is always nothing but the best."
Craig has trained seven platoons during his tour here - two of those being selected as honor platoons.
He was selected as Senior Drill Instructor of the Quarter for 3rd Recruit Training Battalion in the first quarter of fiscal year 2003.
Williamson said he hopes to see Craig fill an important position within the Depot Competition in Arms Program.
"We've asked him to come up here and be the staff (noncommissioned officer in charge) of the MCRD Rifle/Pistol Team," he said.
According to Williamson, some of Craig's more admirable qualities are his enthusiasm for leadership and his desire to help his fellow Marines better themselves.
"It's good to see Marines like him who are concerned with more than just personal achievements," Williamson said. "He's a great mentor for aspiring young marksmen, and he is very interested in furthering what we do."
When his tour of duty aboard the Depot has run its course completely, Craig will leave for the 3rd Marine Regiment in Hawaii and go back to his primary military occupational specialty as an infantry platoon sergeant.
He said he would like to become a warrant officer and eventually a range officer, but above all else, his goal is to be assigned to the Marine Corps Rifle Team permanently.