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Group of Marines stand out at shooting competition
At the Marine Western Division shooting competition at Wilcox Range in Camp Pendleton earlier this month, a group of six Marines from Yuma were unknowns in a sea of experienced marksmen.
When they returned home to the Marine Corps Air Station, they came back with a pair of bronze medals and a fourth-place finish in the team competition.
“Overall our team did really well. The team that Yuma sent were called tyros, which means it was the first time any of us have gone,” Capt. Alexander Vanston said.
Both Vanston, 41, and 25-year-old Sgt. Johnny Paredez came away with bronze medals in the pistol competition. Along with Gunnery Sgt. Jimmy Spence, Sgt. Jamir Redshirt, Cpl. Justin Sikkenga and Lance Cpl. Everett Tucker, MCAS Yuma finished fourth out of 22 teams in both the team pistol and team rifle competition — against marksmen with years of experience in the event.
“To some degree, we didn't have much pressure because most of the people didn't know Yuma from Adam when we were there,” said Vanston, “because when you look at the vast majority of people who were getting medals at the end, most of them — 80 or 90 percent — already had medals from previous competitions. So when you show up and there's not much expectations from you, it helps you relax.”
The event features both active and retired Marines and has competitors from west of the Mississippi River. According to Paredez, it helped the other Marines remember the city of Yuma.
“When you come from a small base, people are like, ‘Where the heck is Yuma?' And it's like, We'll show you where we're at and that we're good at shooting and we're going to beat you. To come in fourth out of 22 teams and people don't even know where Yuma is? That's even better.”
The individual pistol and rifle competitions took place over two days with the team round going the following day. A Beretta M9 was used for the pistol round and a M16A4 with an ACOG sight for the rifle round. The team ended with an aggregate score of 1,095 out of 1,200 on the rifle and 875 on the pistol.
Individually, Paredez finished with an aggregate score of 484 in the pistol and Vanston was right behind with a score of 482. Fighting 25-30 mph winds the second day, Vanston felt a poor first round kept him from medaling.
“I shot really bad in good conditions the first day. I shot probably the worst scores I ever have. Then the second day, it looked like Yuma out there with the dust blowing everywhere and I shot the best pistol score I've ever shot before. I didn't think I had a medal because I goofed it up so bad the first day.”
But Vanson got the news that both he and Paredez were one of 11 shooters to be awarded a bronze medal — four are given gold and seven take silver. After exhausting preparation — which included practice spanning from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. — and the mental fatigue from three days of carefully preparing each shot, Paredez became the owner of a bronze medal to show his friends and fellow Marines at the base.
And Vanston's bronze medal isn't exactly collecting dust.
“I've taken mine out and looked at it a few times,” he said with a smile.
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.