MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Lightweight, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, shoulder-fired assault weapon is the textbook description of the weapon used by modern-day Marines.
The M-16 A4, an upgraded version of the eight pound weapon adopted by the Marine Corps as the standard issue assault rifle in 1983, is useless without trained individuals to properly use it. Marines like Sgt. Michael A. Hauck ensure every rifle is in skilled hands.
Hauck, the platoon sergeant for Wire Platoon, Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, has taught Marines how to improve their shooting skills as a primary marksmanship instructor since 2003.
The Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran was introduced to firing a weapon in basic training, and fell in love with it.
“I love instructing because I am helping Marines advance in their careers,” Hauck said.
Teaching Marines how to fire more accurately eventually gave Hauck the desire to improve his own skills and led to him join a competitive shooting team.
His first exposure to competitive marksmanship was while stationed in Okinawa, where he competed on the Combat Assault Battalion intramural team. Hauck credits his success to the fact that before the Corps, he never shot a weapon.
“I was like a sponge in bootcamp, soaking up all my teachers had to give me. That’s what made me the platoon high shooter,” the Arlington, Texas native said.
From the first day in basic training, Marines are taught the importance of discipline in everything they do. Marksmanship is no exception.
“Discipline is everything,” said the 1998 Noland Catholic High School graduate. “It takes extreme discipline to hold these uncomfortable positions, to not jerk the trigger, to look at the front sight post when it’s so easy to focus on the target instead.”
Hauck earned “Coach of the Week” for his outstanding performance as a marksmanship instructor during the week of Aug. 14 through 18. He compared watching the Marines he coached do well on qualification day, to the look on a child’s face Christmas morning.
“When you see that Marine get expert for the first time, it makes you feel like you just gave them an early Christmas present,” he said.
Santa’s reward for his gifts is milk and cookies, but Hauck receives something he cherishes much more, chevrons.
It is a tradition when shooters either score an expert rating for the first time, or believe their coach helped them score high enough to rate it again, they give the coach one of their rank insignia. Hauck places the chevrons of memorable shooters on the daypack he uses at the rifle range and the rest go into a jar he keeps at his house.
“He helped me a lot,” said Cpl. Nancy E. Burchell, a Marine with Headquarters Company. “I was having trouble with my stance, and I used to box, so he told me to view it as a boxing match. I shot the best I’ve ever shot.”
Hauck said he looks forward to helping Marines in the future, and hopes to join more competitive shooting teams.
At the end of qualification day, the sun beat down on the 93 Headquarters Company Marines as they left the rifle range and headed toward the bus. Hauck reached into his pocket for his “milk and cookies,” - three lieutenant bars, three sergeant chevrons, and a Navy “RP” rate insignia.