Alex Sanchez http://upfromnothing.com 3m 824
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Time progressed and I ended up at my permanent duty station. Working as an Aircraft Mechanic was not as exciting as had envisioned that it would be. Trust me you will learn why soon enough. So needless to say, I began to yearn for some time doing cool Marine Corps stuff. The opportunity presented itself in our Squadron’s field training exercises. These included both the Gas Chamber and Rifle Range, which Marines have to do on a yearly basis. I was in heaven, out at the range doing what Marines do best!
The Gas Chamber was exquisite, in that the trainer “inadvertently” used an extra CS gas canister. As we all exited the Gas Chamber with our eyes watery, skin itchy, and nasal cavities now clear of mucus, I couldn’t help, but feel that GOD truly loved me that day. This magical feeling carried over to the firing range and I began to have the time of my life. I, a double marksman (pistol and rifle), was actually succeeding at hitting the target! So after a night of hanging out and joking around I felt ready to take on the world.
The range opened with the standard protocol. Make sure to police your block, do not shoot and/or point your rifle at anything other than your target. At first, events turned out just as they did the day before. I was smoking through the opening set of shots at the 200 yard line. Kneeling, Sitting, it didn’t matter I was a beast! Through all of this though, I noticed that there were a set of geese swimming on the pond between us and the targets. They looked tranquil and at rest with 30 Marines firing off hundreds of rounds above them.
I quickly refocused myself on the task at hand and transitioned into the standing position. This has always been where I lose momentum at the range, so I was trying a new tactic, instead of doing the figure 8, I would simply align my site and fire. Shockingly, it worked and I focused my new found confidence and energy on the task at hand. As I did this I noticed that off to my right that the birds had begun to take flight and that they were beginning to fly through the shooters’ lines of sight. I was not going to be stopped now! I was in a zone!
Time was running out. They were going to call cease fire! I knew that at best, I would be able to get off one last shot. So I looked up with my rifle pointed towards the sky and took one big breath. As I did this I realized that the geese were about three shooters away. I began to bring my sight down and when the front sight post aligned with the target I squeezed the trigger. Something flashed between the target and my rifle for a second and as I finally glanced away from my front sight post it dawned on me what that flash was.
I had just shot a goose with an M16 at close range, probably at a distance of seven feet. It spiraled about one block to my left and landed in front of my neighbor’s block. As it died a slow Hollywood death pointing its wing at me, I felt the glare of all the other people at the range cast upon me. Then I heard the call come over the speaker: “Cease fire! Cease fire!” I stood there with my neighbor, whose doorstep I had just laid a dead bird at, who had already called me an a-hole in anticipation of the trouble that we both thought we were about to get into.
The range officer in his big cover comes over, then he calls over the other range personnel and they quickly huddle around the dead creature. I begin to believe that maybe it won’t be that bad. The range officer picks up the goose and I see a small pencil hole on its side. “Whew! It’s not that bad!” Then they turn it over and it looked like something out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was torn nearly in half! I nearly fainted! The mood all of a sudden shifted and I began hearing a slow Jerry Maguire clap. The Range Officer asked me if I wanted to keep it. I, being a city boy, with no prior hunting experience, decided that it would probably be best to not keep it. Needless to say, my emotional roller coaster of going from animal killer to small celebrity made me think about my beloved Marine Corps in less than a flattering way.
Alex Sanchez is a veteran of the US Marines. He is also a teacher and coach, who enjoys writing and working on his website. You can read more of his work over at: http://upfromnothing.com