Marine Corps Stories: Qualification
Two Marines discuss their previous experiences on the rifle range.
The junior Marines sat cross-legged on the ship’s deck. Wind was light and the sky was a serene cerulean. NCOs, SNCOs and officers stood at parade rest. Lieutenant Colonel Rosalyn Carr addressed them all. She boasted light features and straight, ivory white teeth. Her cammies appeared pressed and her silver oak leaf insignia glittered like platinum nuggets in the light.
“America doesn’t need a Marine Corps. The Army has tanks, the Air Force has jets, and we all know what we’re floating on thanks to the Navy. And the Coasties have priorities that mainly concern the homeland. America wants a Marine Corps. We are the tip of the spear and deliver on our commitment to win battles and to come home with as few casualties as possible. Go out there and bear this in mind: a Marine is not necessary. A Marine is a demand.” She finished her speech and allowed the higher ranking Devil Dogs to take charge of their young Marines.
Back in the compartment, two Marines played twenty-one. Posters of home plastered the walls of the space. A portrait of a prom night, a pitbull, and lance corporal chevrons adorned the area.
“You believe that?” Lance Corporal Tolkien Smoot said.
“Believe what?” Lance Corporal Keon McClure said.
“The Lt. Col.”
“Yes, what about her?”
“‘America doesn’t need a Marine Corps....’”
“I think she’s spot on. She broke down how the different branches have what we have and that the Marines aren’t really needed. America craves for a Corps because they know that we’re the best.”
“I hear you. Anyway, I’ve got to get some of these Navy girls, man,” Smoot said.
“They’ll come to us, man,” McClure said.
“I hope so. I know that we’ll be on float for these next few months but I can’t wait ‘til we hit port.”
“Don’t be so anxious,” McClure said.
“You’re right,” Smoot said.
“What do you think about this new rifle score?” McClure asked.
“What score?” He laid down an ace and a king.
McClure leaned forward. He knew that he had drawn attention to something that Smoot had missed. He smirked like the son of Lucifer.
“What?” Smoot said as he inched closer to his rack mate.
“Word is that the qual score has gone up. They said that there will be more pressure on us to achieve higher marks on that deck.”
“Well, I don’t have to worry about that.”
“And why is that?” McClure asked.
“Because I’m a better shot than you.”
McClure’s eyes became saucers. “Oh, really? I would like to see your last photo with the pizza box in it, please….”
Smoot scowled. “Goddammnit! I was bit by a few fire ants. Messed up my shot.”
“I thought it was a sand flea….”
“That was at Boot, Keon,” Smoot said.
“I doubt that,” McClure said. “Well, I’ve been expert all the way up to now.”
Smoot clapped his hands sarcastically. “Fantastic.”
“I’m going to keep the tradition going. I’m going to not just qual but excel at the fine art of rifle firing.”
Smoot batted his hand away. “You talk all that now, but you just said that they upped the scoring. You don’t know how you’re going to perform out there on that deck. A gust might come through and throw you off your whole game.”
“How soon you forget the blessed wind call….”
“Wind call? Negro, we’re on a ship. You’ll see what it’s like out there when that sea breeze kicks up and your rounds are going all around the target.”
“I think you should worry about that more. I’m not concerned with it. I’m not the one with the badge that looks like I’m about to make a delivery.”
Ha-ha,” Smoot sniggered. “I’ve been watching videos online. I’ve been getting my weight up and following how to be better. More precise.”
“Keep watching those online videos. You’re going to need to those images to console you once you shoot 250.”
“To hell with that. I’m going to be expert, too, goddamnit.”
"You might get sharpshooter. That’s if you really focus, my guy.”
A knock at the hatch brought the two lance corporals to their feet.
McClure answered. Marine Captain Felix Albert, dark skinned and about six feet looked over his junior Marines. His “choo choo track” insignia glistened in the low glow. He possessed a trim uniform and a sharp haircut. His stare remained icy and clear.
“What’s going on here, McClure? Smoot?” the captain asked.
“We’re just playing blackjack and talking about the rifle qualification tomorrow, sir,” McClure said. The two men stood at parade rest in the cramped space.
“Look, why don’t you both go down to the chow hall. They’ve got beef brisket and macaroni and cheese and cherry pie for dessert. And don’t worry about tomorrow. Just have fun out there. It’s just like at Boot. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” McClure and Smoot said.