Marksmanship Skills Provide Mission Readiness and Mentorship
03 May 2023
PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Axel Narvaez was awarded the U.S. Navy Pistol Excellence-In-Competition Badge (Bronze) after a match in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in which he scored a 90.87 percent. As a result, he took second place in the Carry Optics division, where shooters possess a pistol without major modifications and a slide mounted red dot sight.
A man steps up to the firing line, his vision downrange. “Shooter, load and make ready!” orders the range safety officer. A magazine is slotted into the well and the slide is racked as a round is put into the chamber before the pistol is holstered once more. The chatter of the onlookers dies down to eager silence.
“Shooter, are you ready?” A nod is their answer. “Shooter standby!”
Adrenaline begins flooding into the shooter’s veins. His mind slowly experiences a sense of heightened clarity as his eyes focus that much more on the paper targets before him. Moments later a loud, high-pitched beep echoes through the range and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Axel Narvaez opens fire.
For Narvaez, that rush of adrenaline is a calming agent in the competition.
“Action shooting is very dynamic by its nature, and the timer brings an extra level of stress similar to combat,” said Narvaez. “But along with that stress and adrenaline comes clarity, and with that clarity, a sense of calm.”
Narvaez, a native of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, began shooting a year before he deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and then later for the Team Recon Sniper Foundation in 2017. In February 2023, Narvaez was awarded the U.S. Navy Pistol Excellence-In-Competition Badge (Bronze) after a match in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in which he scored a 90.87 percent. As a result, he took second place in the Carry Optics division, where shooters possess a pistol without major modifications and a slide mounted red dot sight.
“I am beyond grateful and happy; the program became effective in January this year and I’m the fourth recipient to earn a badge,” remarked Narvaez. “I am a very passionate firearms instructor and forever a student of firearms proficiency. Winning this award while mentoring other Sailors at a local match is an amazing and significant achievement for me. Now it is time to go after the silver and gold.”
Narvaez first heard about the competitions and marksmanship team from Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Lightner, the director for the U.S. Navy Marksmanship (USNMT) Action Shooting Team.
“I am very proud of HM1 Narvaez’s dedication and hard work which has led to his recent accomplishment,” said Lightner. “He is the fourth person in the U.S. Navy history to have ever earned an Excellence in Competition Badge through action shooting. As of today, only nine of the Excellence in Competition badges have been awarded through action shooting.”
The team has no set location but operates nationwide, and Lightner expressed his vision to change this.
“My ultimate goal is for the Navy to emulate that of the Marine Corps and Army by making the U.S. Navy Marksmanship Team a funded full time duty station,” explained Lightner. “As the premier shooters in the Navy, we would travel to Sailors stateside, aboard ships and at overseas locations teaching them from the most basic to the most advanced shooting skills. We would compete against the other services during National Championship Matches and host inter-service matches to further increase camaraderie and esprit de corps.”
Even if the competitive spirit pushes participants to do their best against their fellow Sailors, the atmosphere is still light and helpful.
“Honestly, it’s one of the best environments for competition,” explained Narvaez. “If for some reason your equipment or your pistol itself malfunctions there would be 10 people saying, ‘Hey you can shoot mine,’ or ‘Here use my magazine instead.’”
The program also helps to increase mission readiness across the Navy.
“Sailors and special operators can benefit greatly from the program,” said Narvaez. “Marksmanship skills are great to have in a Sailor’s toolbox. This leads to a more lethal and mission ready force both out in the field and while standing watch pier side.”
While not an official member of the team due to the requirement of shooting in a major match, Narvaez hopes to remedy this in the coming months and to have more share in his passion for the sport. Having a spouse in the Coast Guard, he would love the chance to help them in getting a program like this up and running.
“I would like to invite all Sailors to take a look at the U.S. Navy Marksmanship Instruction 3590.27 and join me and other members of the military who are passionate about action shooting,” stated Narvaez. “I am here to help mentor shooters of all levels and from all branches of service.”
USNMT represents the Department of the Navy in inter-service and national competitions, and identifies, supports, and develops qualified Navy competitors to represent the Navy at competitions while training Sailors in marksmanship and small arms safety. You can learn more at https://www.usff.navy.mil/usnmt
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