AAV Schoolhouse Sergeant Becomes Distinguished Shooter
(June 14, 2011)
Sgt. Kenneth D. Nelson, training non-commissioned officer with
the Assault Amphibious School Battalion, holds a rifle with his
shooting badges displayed in front of him, June 9, 2011. Nelson
recently shot at a competition earning him enough points to be a
dual distinguished shooter.
CAMP PENDLETON, CA (June 10, 2011) -- Sgt. Kenneth D. Nelson has the
medal to prove he's part of an elite group of riflemen.
Nelson, a training non-commisioned officer with the Assault
Amphibious School Battalion earned the title of distinguished
shooter for his outstanding performance with a rifle and pistol.
“It's not like I came in to the Marine Corps shooting great,”
said Nelson, 26, from Richland, Wash. “In boot camp I got the lowest
you could shoot to get sharpshooter.”
To be classified as
distinguished, a shooter must earn 30 points by winning medals at
According to the Civilian Marksmanship
Program club and competition tracker, Nelson is one of three Marines
in the Corps who became a distinguished rifle shooter this year and
is the only Marine to become distinguished in both the rifle and
pistol this year. He has worked to become a dual distinguished
shooter for more than five years.
“I never knew how to shoot
before the Marine Corps,” said Nelson, who grew up in a farming
town. “I shot a .22 long rifle once or twice.”
graduate of Richland High School, enlisted in the Corps in 2003. He
was introduced to the Competition-in-Arms program at his first duty
station in Okinawa, Japan.
While in Okinawa, Nelson was
selected among his peers to become a primary marksmanship instructor
and range coach. His job was to coach other Marines on proper firing
techniques, effects of weather and other components of marksmanship.
While working as a PMI, the range was closed down for a month in order
to hold a Competition-in-Arms match. Nelson said he had no clue what
The Competition-in-Arms program was
developed to help Marines improve marksmanship skills through two-week
workshops and competition among other servicemembers.
staff non-commissioned officers encouraged him and his co-workers to
participate in the program. The competition peaked his interest, and
Nelson made it a personal goal to be one of the Corps' top shooters.
“I was so happy,” Nelson said. “After coaching on the range for a
year, I was going to get to shoot for once.”
participating in the program received coaching from members of the
Marine Corps rifle and pistol team. Nelson said their coaching helped
him win a bronze medal at his first competition.
his first division match in Okinawa, Nelson continued to attend
competitions whenever possible. He deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008 but
immediately returned to the competition field when he arrived at Camp
His confidence and shooting proficiency led him to not
only compete but to also help coach other Marine shooters in
Staff Sgt. William E. Williams, an
assault amphibian mechanic at the Assault Amphibious School Battalion,
said he credits Nelson for his own involvement in competitions. Nelson
encouraged and coached Williams to compete in 2009 and again in 2011.
“He coached a rifle and pistol team I was on,” Williams said. “We
won first in team pistol and first in the aggregate [a combination of
both pistol and rifle scores]. He was the driving force behind the team.
He's been that way since I've known him.
“He always applies
personal experience to his coaching as well as what he reads out of
books,” Williams said. “The Competition-in-Arms is definitely something
he takes home after hours.”
After a series of matches, Nelson
totaled 30 points in both the rifle and the pistol during the Pacific
Fleet rifle and pistol matches aboard Camp Pendleton held in early May.
He is now authorized to wear distinguished shooting badges.
Usually only higher enlisted and officers are distinguished because it
takes time to get to that level of marksmanship, said Williams.
“To be distinguished as a sergeant is amazing,” Williams said. “You
don't see that too often. Only a handful of Marines are distinguished.”
After an outstanding record on the range, peers constantly seek
Nelson for marksmanship advice.
“When it comes to shooting, have
fun with it. If you're not having fun, you won't do well,” Nelson said.
“When on the range, don't think about things that can't be controlled.
Think about the things that one must do at that moment.”
Article and photo by USMC Sgt. Marcy Sanchez
I Marine Expeditionary Force
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