Above: Sgt. Antonio Diconza (l.) receiving his high shooter award at the National Trophy Rifle Matches Awards Ceremony. Shaking his hand is Col. Pete Farnum, commanding officer of the Weapons Training Battalion, Training Command, Quantico, VA.
Earlier this year at Camp Perry, Sgt. Antonio DiConza of the U.S. Marine Corps Rifle Team broke a 31-year-old record at the National Matches, scoring 500-15X at the National Trophy Rifle Team Match, beating the previous record set in 1985 by Donald Manning by a single point.
Sgt. Diconza said about his record-breaking performance:
“It’s still a weird feeling to think about it, kind of unreal. An NRA official I’ve known for a long time asked me, ‘How does this feel?’ I told him it’s like winning the lotto, except this takes skill instead of luck. To be that consistent for such a difficult course of fire, and not letting the match monkey get on my back and rattle me is something I will always be proud of.”
Extremely humble, yet confident in his abilities, Diconza added, “It’s not like I’m better than anybody else. That day was just my day.”
Before joining the Marines, Diconza had never shot a gun, save a few opportunities in his youth with BB guns. His first opportunity to shoot was at boot camp. After his first deployment, while still a tyro, he was sent to the Pacific Division Match in Hawaii. This was his first match, which he went on to win—also setting a range record in the process. After that initial match in Hawaii, Diconza was a serious high power rifle competitor. “Before that match, I did not even know that competitive shooting existed,” Diconza told me. “After the Pacific Division Match, I was hooked.”
Diconza’s first summer shooting season was in 2011. In 2013, he reenlisted in the Corps specifically to be a permanent member of the shooting team. Since then, he has worked to hone his shooting skills, especially becoming more proficient in ballistics, as well as being able to instruct other Marines in marksmanship. While with the rifle team, he has competed at the National Matches, Interservice Matches, and other matches held by civilians for a total of five years, four of those as a permanent member of the team.
With much enthusiasm, Diconza gives full credit to the Marines and the rifle team for his success on the firing line.
“The USMC shooting team has the mission of attending matches and gaining fundamental marksmanship knowledge from competition. Then we bring that information back to the USMC as a whole, so that all are more proficient with a firearm. It’s an honor for me to be a part of it.”
Diconza wants more USMC personnel, as well as those planning to join in the future, to know about the benefits of competitive shooting for honing their skills. Additionally, the camaraderie and friendly competition at matches helps increase marksmanship skills.
Says Diconza: “Every Marine needs to know about competition and division matches. The knowledge available will help benefit you, and the USMC as a whole. My team and my coach, SSGT Altendorf, helped me out tremendously. Additionally, CPL Freddie Church kept me on my toes from the beginning of this season to the end.”
In the command structure of the Marine Corps, the USMC Training Command (TRNGCMD) owns the shooting teams and Weapons Training Battalion. The Command General of TRNGCMD is Gen. Jason Bohm, who also oversees all military occupational specialty (MOS) schools across the country—and also the Officer Candidate School at Quantico, VA.