Monday, February 7, 2011

think I'm going to tell a few tales of my experiences at the National Matches at Camp Perry.

IA lot of you that have served in the services will have very raised eyebrows when I tell you about what sometimes happens there because you have never been there, but among the various service members a certain change takes place. You get to see a lot of odd things happen.

While military courtesy between the various ranks certainly stays intact, a lot of things differ. People relax. Most of them are here to have a little fun and you see things you would never see happen at a unit level.

The various so-called fun matches have contributed greatly to this because they have allowed people that were intimidated by the fierce competition of the 'official' matches become comfortable enough to enter the fun matches.

The Garand, Springfield/Vintage military and carbine matches are an example. You can simply enter these matches with a basic as-issued rifle and compete. Most of the competitors compete against last years scores.

A lot of officers and senior NCOs that are in charge of, but not firing members of their respective teams often enter these 'game matches' and you never know what will happen next. Over the years I have seen a couple of General Officers shoot in these matches and when the relay is over, they head straight down to the pits to pull targets just like everyone else does.

Squadding is hit or miss and you never know who you are going to get squadded with. Usually I wind up with civilians, of course, as they are the majority of the shooters, but one year the fortunes of the draw got me squadded with a Marine corporal and an Army lieutenant colonel.

I about died laughing when the officer had a complete miss. He looked up at the corporal with a sheepish look and the corporal said to him, "Hell, Sir. If you keep doing that, they're going to have to send you back to OCS!"

The officer's next shot was in the nine ring and the corporal mumbled, "That's more like it, Sir."

The pair of them looked at each other and chuckled. It was a rare thing to see, and you probably wouldn't see something like that happen back in the unit level. Strange things happen at Camp Perry. Especially at the Garand match.

You have to be observant and have a military background to really see it, but for someone who does have a service background it is interesting to watch the subtle things that happen there. You are as apt to see a Pfc give a tip or pointer to a major as you are to see a major help a Pfc out.

I attribute much of this odd magic to the simple fact that virtually everyone there is a shooter. They are there because they love the sport and as much as they can, they simply put as many of their differences aside as they can to enjoy the sport together.

I guess this is the military equivilant of Sturgis, where Doctors and lawyers mingle freely with mechanics and laborers and share their interest in motorcycles.

Housing is interesting, too.

There are barracks rooms to be had for about $10 per night and the squad bays hold 25 people.

Hutments that were build during WW2 and hold 4 people can be rented for the neighborhood of $40/night.

There is also modular housing, other units and a small RV campground.

I prefer the barracks squad bays because it is the most interesting. You never know who or what is going to happen next. If you are an observer of things like human nature, the barracks are the place for you. Some years they are quiet and uneventful, some times they can be a real zoo.

The overwhelming majority of barracks dwellers have had some kind of background, usually military or at least were Boy Scouts and know how to behave in a barracks type situation. They can ghost to the latrine, located at the end of the building and not wake the lightest sleeper up.


Every so often someone without a clue shows up and he either learns real fast or suffers severe repercussions.

A couple of years ago my bunkmate was a serving Army Colonel who had taken personal leave time to shoot. He was on his own nickel and wasn't drawing Army quarters. For whatever reason he opted for a barracks cot. The only problem I had was that I couldn't bring myself to address him by his first name. I'm former enlisted and that is that. I addressed him as 'Colonel' and he addressed me as 'soldier' and we got along fine. One morning when we woke up, he got out of bed and went straight to the end of the barracks and picked up a boot and returned to place said boot on my bed.

"Good shot," he said, "right in the X-ring."

Then I remembered. It was my boot. Someone for whatever reason had turned on the lights in the middle of the night and in a dead sleep had sat up and thrown a Corcoran jump boot at him and hit the offender right smack dab in the chest. It was the best shot I have ever made at Camp Perry.


Camp Perry is just like any other military installation in the States.

At the proper time in the morning, the cannon beneath the flagpole is fired and everyone turns toward the flag as The Star Spangled Banner is played. Military people salute and civvies hold their hand over their heart as they face the colors.

One morning as the last note of the National Anthem faded, some wag shouted, "Play Ball!"

Almost everyone grinned, but a nearby army Sp/4 looked a little confused.

A captain looked at the Sp/4 and grinned. "Son, if that bothers you, you're probably in the wrong line of work," he said. "I chose this job to make sure people could continue to do things like that!"


R. Lee Ermey shoots at Perry every year and has for the past several years. A few years ago I met him outside the auditorium and bet him ten bucks payable to Toys for Tots that I'd beat him.

The kids won that one, as a few months later I coughed up ten buck for the program.

Gunny Ermey can sure shoot a Garand.

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