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Light blue rectangle with Navy anchors in the four corners, target symbols on each side and a no symbol over a US Navy marksmanship ribbon (Navy blue rectangle with three vertical, equidistant green stripes) to represent firing blanks on the range.


Amidst the daily drudge of PT (Physical Training), marching on “the Grinder,” learning to tie knots, and basically scrubbing and polishing anything that held still long enough, there were few things I looked forward to in boot camp. One thing I was excited about, however, was the opportunity to go to the weapons range where I aimed (pun intended) to show off my prowess and gain a marksmanship ribbon.

TBH, I am not big on guns, but I knew I would be expected to handle firearms as part of my military commitment and I was determined to make the grade in everything I did during my tour of duty.

Also, I come from a large family. Six kids. Four of them boys. So, I spent a lot of time playing soldier when I was younger, and plinking at cans and bottles with BBs and pellets as I got older. Guns and shooting were just a part of life coming from a small town in an agricultural and ranching environment.

Before we were allowed on the Navy Training Center range, we had to go through weapons training and pass a series of tests, including the small arms drills where we had to disassemble and reassemble a .45 automatic handgun in a set amount of time. I love puzzles and am admittedly quite competitive (Did I mention I have four brothers?), so I excelled at these drills.

However, not long before we were supposed to report to the range, I heard an ugly rumor that we women would be firing blanks. (I could make a snarky comment here, but I will resist temptation.) The idea that the female recruits were not going to be given live ammo made me livid. How the hell was I supposed to earn my marksmanship ribbon? But no one gave a crap if a recruit didn’t like something. And, as far as I knew, there was no “complaint department.” (I had yet to discover the amazing power of the seemingly innocuous but exceedingly powerful Request Chit, but that’s a story for another day.)

So, when they handed me a rifle filled with blanks I dutifully—though, I admit, rather grumpily—sighted down range and fired off my “rounds.”

I cleared the rifle and handed it back just in time to see one of the women from my training unit take possession of a rifle and begin to squeal, “I don’t wanna shoot this thing!” She proceeded to spin around, pointing the rifle in every direction except down range.

I cringed and reflexively ducked before the Gunny on Range stepped up and grabbed the rifle from her and firmly gave her direct and personal instructions on handling and firing the weapon.

I stepped away, embarrassed for my gender, yet relieved that no one had been hurt, nor could they have been, as the idiot with the gun had not been given live rounds.

I decided that living to see another day was well worth not having a marksmanship ribbon.

Well played, NTC Orlando. Well played.


*This content was previously published on my past blog and has been revised and reprinted.

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