In 2004, Scott Taetsch and Master Gunnery Sergeant Mike Krueger looked at the washout rate for Marine Corps Boot Camp (up to 15 percent, depending on the year) and said to themselves—“Not for our sons.” Soon afterwards the Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs, and Educators, Inc. (Wisconsin FORCE) was founded. To date, the program has trained 5,004 young men and women who have opted to attend FORCE camp while they await orders to boot camp.
Whether they begin their military career at Recruit Training Depot in San Diego, CA or Parris Island, SC, what lies ahead for these young patriots is 13 weeks of arduous training where every Marine is required to qualify in several skills including marksmanship, swimming, first-aid and martial arts. As a final test of will power and skill, “recruits” must pass the 54-hour Crucible—simulated combat across a 50-mile course in full combat gear with only 4-6 hours of sleep. Those who succeed are assigned to additional training for their occupational specialty: Infantry, engineers, aviation, tanks, communications, etc. Those who don’t, go home.
This year’s Armed Forces Camps were held June 22-27 at six locations across the state of Wisconsin. The program is offered to Marine Corps Recruiting Station Milwaukee, which covers Wisconsin and parts of Illinois, Minnesota and Upper Michigan.
Has the program been successful? In 2011, the Marines reported that only one recruit out of the first 2,800 attendees failed to qualify on the range. The recruits who attend the one-day Armed Forces Camp are introduced to the M16/AR15-type rifle during classroom instruction, followed by live fire with 25 rounds. Although there are opportunities for education and training with firearms before enlistment, many recruits have not had any type of proper firearms training and may not have had the opportunity to ever fire a gun. The goal of Armed Forces Camp is to help build confidence and prepare young men and women for the challenging training that lies ahead.
A recruit who arrives at boot camp in good physical condition, for example, has an advantage over one who hasn’t prepared. Those who arrive out of shape still have a good chance of becoming a Marine, with the help of the Marine staff, but that road is longer and harder. While Armed Forces Camp is not designed to make them Expert Marksmen, it does prepare them for the finest instruction in the world.
The program has been updated to make it available to as many recruits as possible. This is accomplished by holding it to a single day event and restricting the instruction to only introducing the recruit to the rifle and the Marine Corps safety and training procedures. With this training, the recruits who attend Armed Forces Camp have an edge over those who arrive less prepared.
Due to ammunition costs, this program would not be possible without funding through the NRA Foundation and the Wisconsin Friends of NRA, which have funded more than $22,000.00 towards the program. Additional donors for Camp supplies include DPMS (12 AR-15A2 rifles), Colt (6 AR-15A2 rifles), an anonymous donor who donated 31,000 rounds of ammunition in the last three years, R&R Reloading, American Target, ValleyLaser, and D&H Manufacturing, to name only a few.
As is most often the case, the initiative of a few unselfish volunteers, resourced by industry partners and the NRA, continue to provide individual opportunities while preserving a key part of our Nation’s heritage.
Photographs by Tomba-Images.com