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Junior Highpower Shooters Learn Marksmanship the Marine Corps Way

By Steve Cooper, CMP Writer

CAMP PERRY, OHIO – Sometimes folks need an invigorating splash of cold water in the face followed by a warm towel to wake up and see things that really matter in life and, in the case of 146 junior shooters, learning marksmanship the Marine Corps way.

After the classroom portion of the clinic, junior shooters were paired with USMC Service Rifle Coaches on the Range for additional instruction.

Highly-animated, retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant Ken Roxburgh and his team of Marine and Team Bushmaster shooting instructors challenged the 2008 USMC Junior High Power Clinic class with plenty of topics, ranging from determining proper eye relief to when not to nod off in class.

Enter the cold water...

“You will not disrespect your instructors or your classmates by closing your eyes during this clinic,” Roxburgh barked out to students gathered in the Camp Perry clubhouse conference room during the clinic’s first session.

“If you need to take a break and collect yourself, there’s the door,” he said, as the room fell eerily silent.

Then the warm towel...

“Then again,” he continued, “if a shooter is having difficulty acquiring proper eye relief, perhaps he spent a little too much time with his good friend Jose Cuervo the night before,” Roxburgh followed, as the class erupted in laughter and collectively regained normal sinus rhythm.

“As we teach marksmanship, we try to develop an air of importance,” he said.

“At the same time I like to try to joke around with them a little. If you don’t show a side of you that’s approachable, you’re not going to be a good instructor and a good instructor communicates well,” Roxburgh said.

Students were given a 25 question exam during the clinic before heading to the range for additional instruction and firing exercises.

Such was the tone for the remainder of in-class and range instruction for junior shooters who qualified for the clinic by having fired in previous competition or at minimum, completed the rifle Small Arms Firing School.

The clinic ran Friday, 25 July, through Sunday, 27 July, and focused on the key elements of range safety and etiquette, shooting position, aiming, trigger control, zeroing, effects of weather and proper use of the data book and the loop sling. Days two and three were spent shooting on the range firing at 200, 300 and 600 yards.

Roxburgh emphasized the science of shooting, spending considerable time explaining the physiology of sight, the physical requirements off-hand shooting and the control of respiration and heart rate as it relates to firing the shot and “allowing the hammer to fall as a surprise.”

Brett RaVell, a member of the Maryland State Rifle Team, attended the Junior Highpower Clinic.

“I like it,” said Brett RaVell, 17, of Odenton, Maryland. “He’s interesting, funny and amusing,” he said about instructor Roxburgh. A high school senior, RaVell said he learned a great deal more about wind reading and shooting positions.

The first-time clinic participant, who has shot smallbore rifle in the past, has been shooting high power for two years and is serving his first year of competition on the Maryland State Rifle Team.

David Marrs, 17 of Fluvanna, Virginia who has been “shooting ever since I was big enough to hold a rifle,” said the clinic taught him a lot about position and use of the data book.

“He’s very animated,” Jacob Neri, 16, of Stockbridge, Georgia, said about Roxburgh. “He grabs the attention of who he’s talking to and he obviously knows what he’s talking about.”

“Shooting here was a very, very weird experience for me because of the wind,” he said. Neri is accustomed to shooting on closed ranges where wind is not normally a factor.

An accomplished scholastic wrestler, Neri is considering a career in the Marine Corps.

Sgt Arin Preston, USMC, teaches the proper sitting position during the Clinic.

For Taylor Grissom, 14, of Grand Rapids, Michigan and member of the Chief Okemos Gun Club, the clinic experience promises to improve his hold, positions and ultimately his scores.

“I’m really glad to have so many famous shooters here to help,” he said.

Roxburgh’s style of instruction brings a give-and-take mixture of education, discipline, humor and mutual respect – all key elements needed to communicate with young adults.

He’s been a lead instructor in the USMC HP Junior Clinic many different years since its inception in 1981, having retired from active duty in 2005 after 30 years of service to the Corps - most notably as a sniper instructor. Distinguished in both service pistol and rifle, Roxburgh was a member of the USMC rifle and pistol teams and a team coach as the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (NCOIC).

“What we really try to teach is safe weapons handling as it relates to fundamental marksmanship and match participation. We have to have a great measure of self-discipline and the ability to follow appropriate orders and regulations given by the people that run these matches.”

Roxburgh, 53, a resident of Stafford, Virginia, just down the road from the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia is adamant about sharing his knowledge.

“Some successful competitors don’t want to communicate their knowledge. Some just want to sell it, and I think that’s wrong.

“The way I look at it is if I teach you well enough to beat me, then I did my job.”

Today Roxburgh is an operations manager for Cerberus Capital Management, LC, an investment company which over time has acquired firearms manufacturers Bushmaster, Remington, DPMS Panther Arms and most recently, Marlin.

Cerberus acknowledged the value Roxburgh brings to the world of competitive shooting and has provided him the opportunity to continue his passion for instruction while serving as an ambassador for its firearms brands.

“I can’t think of a much better activity for a young person to spend during the summer as participating in these matches. They come out here and they learn proper weapons safety; they learn how to handle a weapon; they learn the spirit of competition; and they learn to be ladies and gentlemen.”

“You should always try to contribute to this competition. It’s part of the thing that makes our country strong and free, and it makes our military strong and free,” Roxburgh said.

The clinic concluded with a Pizza Party sponsored by Bushmaster Firearms, Inc. Students received a Certificate of Attendance and Clinic T-Shirt.

“Over the years guys like Lance Dement, Kyle Ward, Lance Hopper and many of the great national champions were juniors in our clinics. So I’m kinda proud to say that one time they were juniors and I was hollering at them.

“I hope it’s not too far-fetched to think that some day one of these fine young people will be instructing this clinic,” Roxburgh concluded.

Upon the clinic’s completion, participants were recognized during a graduation ceremony and were treated to a pizza party, compliments of Bushmaster.