Duty at the rifle range was all outdoors. There was a split Quonset hut, half of which served as the range office and the other half was a living area for the Duty NCO. The range was open from 6 am – 5 pm Monday thru Friday but closed on weekends and holidays.
Many of the Marines serving on the range were married and having “the duty” was not a popular thing (we had less than 20 in the detail). The duty roster was posted monthly and we were allowed to trade days with each other. As one of the single Marines, I probably spent more time as the Duty NCO than anyone else. A perk of having the duty was when relieved at 0600, I got the rest of the day off.
My circle of close friends remained the same. The stewards I had served with in the Officers Mess continued our friendship, working in separate units. The extra time off allowed me to spend more time with them.
As a marksmanship coach, I excelled and the next step up was to be an instructor. In April try-outs were initiated for the El Toro rifle team. I made the cut with four others. We practiced every day and in May the NRA held the State Championship match at Camp Pendleton. I entered the 600 yard open and won the event. My score was a perfect 100 with 13 V’s (V ring is a 12″ circle within the 20″ bull’s eye). I received a nice medal and a designation as Lifetime Master with the High Powered Rifle. It was a big deal for a young Marine stationed at an air facility.
Returning from the matches, my name came up for requalification and I fired expert with a score of 249/250, breaking the El Toro range record. A story was printed in “The Flight Jacket” regarding my high scores, and I had a bit of celebrity status. My steward friends teased me about the spilled ice tea and how I had finally found a niche.
In October 1965 I was promoted to Lance Corporal and designated as a Primary Marksmanship Instructor (PMI). It was unusual for an E-3 to have this position (sort of like a freshman making varsity). Also I received a notice of a change in MOS (military occupational status). My primary MOS was now 3371 cook and I was given a secondary MOS of 8531 marksmanship instructor. These were now my official military credentials after 18 months in the Corps.