MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- One shot, one kill; the deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle; every Marine is a rifleman. These slogans are thrown around to describe a key function of the Marine Corps -- marksmanship.
At the bare minimum, every Marine learns the basics of how to shoot before they receive any advanced training. The techniques are easy; focus on the front sight tip, keep the stock of the weapon firmly against your cheek, breathe slowly, and pull the trigger steadily.
Proper usage of these techniques should keep the rounds in the center of the target.
Few Marines can hit the black with every single shot though. But for a Marine from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, missing was a word that didn’t exist.
Cpl. William P. Stellwagen, a 20-year-old from Seaford, N.Y., shot a perfect score of 250 at Stone Bay’s Charlie range here, June 21. He is the only Marine to have done so since Stone Bay switched to the known distance (KD) course of fire in October.
“It feels good! I’m in shock more than anything else right now,” said Stellwagen, a supply warehouse noncommissioned officer.
Stellwagen entered the Marine Corps on July 5, 2004 having never fired a rifle before in his life. He qualified as a marksman in recruit training and as a sharpshooter last year. Stellwagen said he shot well during the practice days he had before qualification, but never dreamed he would shoot that well.
“I just thought I would shoot good,” he added. “I didn’t think I was going to shoot perfect.”
Firing on a typically hot, humid N. C. day, Stellwagen put every single round in the black receiving five points for each round hitting the center of the target. He focused on putting each shot dead center as he moved through the course. Those who were in the pits marking his targets were getting more and more excited with each shot.
“I didn’t think he was going to do it,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert A. Livingston, a corpsman with the battalion who was marking Stellwagen’s target. “When he got to the 500 yard line, I thought he was going to shoot too low for his last couple shots. He started off at the top of the target and worked his way down, putting his last two shots right on the edge of the black.”
Stellwagen didn’t think anything unusual of the way he was shooting until he got to the 500 yard line. There he realized that he could get a perfect score.
“I didn’t think I was going to do it until I got to the 500 and hit my first 4 shots,” Stellwagen said. “Then I got real nervous. During those last two shots I was shaking my whole body, trigger finger, everything.”
Everybody who witnessed it rushed to shake his hand and congratulate him once the feat was over. The reality of how huge an accomplishment this is still hasn’t sunk in for him yet. Those who were there know they witnessed something special. Stellwagen is doing his best to remain humble though.
“I credit all of this to my coach, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey L. Morris,” he added. “He helped me out a lot. He kept going over the basics, helping me get on target and stay there.”
“It was outstanding shooting,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffrey L. Morris, a 20-year-old from Brent, Ala. “He applied all the right fundamentals, and it was an honor and a privilege to coach him.”