Marine waits more than 30 years to take his first shot
Port Clinton, Ohio -
After serving 32 years serving in the Marine Corps, Colonel Gregory H. Kitchens had always wanted to compete at Camp Perry. Now a member of the Marine Corps Reserve, Colonel Kitchens finally has the pleasure of attending the NRA Rifle and Pistol Championships this year as the Officer in Charge of the Pistol Reserve Team.
"I had so much fun," Kitchens laughed. "I'm just so happy to be here I don't know what to do with myself."
But the shooting skills didn't just arrive. What he's able to do out on the range is thanks to the help from his gunnery sergeants, staff sergeants, sergeants and corporals who tried to teach him how to shoot. He's listening to the best but still very new to the sport.
"I'm the senior man on the team rank wise, but junior man on the team shooting wise."
Every competitor who comes to Camp Perry for the first time seems to discover different challenges and rewards. "Militarily, the expertise we gain from this level of competition, which is very very difficult, emphasizes the basics of marksmanship," Kitchens explained. "But it gives us a higher level of expertise so we can spread the holy gospel of marksmanship throughout the Marine Corps."
Kitchens explained that during the Spanish-American war, the military realized that "we were lousy shots." Luckily for all involved, Camp Perry was founded between then and WWI.
"Camp Perry began in 1907, but the marksmanship program was already rolling, they were just looking for the right place," Kitchens told us. "That marksmanship and that competition and that level of marksmanship excellence, building known distance courses throughout the marine corps, and then competing. Then WWI came along and we had crack shots. What the Marine Corp did in WWI, people still talk about. And that has all to do with our marksmanship and how we got better."
According to the good Colonel, the Marine Corps dedicates two weeks of basic training strictly to marksmanship ... more than any other branch of the service. No matter if a Marine is a cook or logistics personal, he or she will always think like a rifleman. He even had a recent example from the war in Iraq.
"When my Commanding General's unit assaulted Baghdad, the Iraqi army tried to flank his logistics drive. Those Marines picked up and counter-attacked," Kitchens said with a smile. "The general told me that he'd never been more proud of anybody...they didn't think 'Oh this is the Infantry's job" and that's so much about what the Marine Corps is about...we very much embrace marksmanship, but very few of us have the opportunity to embrace it at this level."
But the stories didn't stop there. He also had a tale about a Marine who approached him in New Orleans:
"Sir, we were about to deploy to Iraq and we were on the rifle range...and I really messed up and you knelt down and said 'Marine those rounds are downrange. You can't get them back. All you can do is learn from them, just like life.' You know Sir, I almost shot expert that day even after messing up the 300 because I took what you said and I took it with me and I shot well. And then I took it and applied it to my life." Kitchens sat back and smiled, "Give me an opportunity to make a better marksman, and I'll give the Corps a better Marine."
Colonel Kitchens truly represents how fortunate the United States is to have dedicated individuals like himself who protect and serve our country. NRAblog wishes Colonel Kitchens the best of luck with his shooting and we hope to see him again next year.