Camp Lejeune, N.C. -- Fifteen years of dedication to marksmanship training has culminated into the achievement of a lifetime for Warsaw, Va., native Staff Sgt. Vince Sulik, a marksmanship instructor with 2d Force Service Support Group Marksmanship Training Unit, Weapons Training Battalion, at the Stone Bay Training Area here.
Sulik, a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps, was chosen as this year's recipient of the Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock Award for outstanding achievement in marksmanship and was presented the award Sept. 20, in Quantico, Va.
It is a crowning achievement on a career dedicated to Marine Corps marksmanship, according to Sulik. However, he was not always a marksmanship instructor.
When he joined the Marine Corps in 1980, he attended boot camp and obtained the military occupational specialty for basic electrician and was assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion, 2d FSSG.
Following this assignment, he began his marksmanship career.
"In January 1985, I attended the Basic Rifle Range Coach's School at Stone Bay," said Sulik. "In that school, I didn't know anything. I was like most Marines. The training used to be real bad."
Sulik said that in those days if a Marine had a bad "grass week" or snap-in period, or was in a platoon that had to rush through training, he might not get a lot of information conveyed to the individual Marine on how to properly use the rifle.
"We used to teach Marines that once they got their 'dope' (personal settings for their weapon,) don't touch the weapon," Sulik admitted. "I was in coach's school before I really learned how to work the weapon. I found out every Marine can shoot expert, they just need to know how the weapon works, i.e. zeroing the weapon and maintaining that zero."
One of the ways Sulik became involved in shooting is through the Competition in Arms Program while at coach's school. He said he feels that once a person gets involved in competitive marksmanship they get even more enjoyment out of passing on their knowledge to others.
"This is my definition of a distinguished marksman," said Sulik. "It's not someone who's earned 30 points toward distinguished. It's someone that strives to pass on his knowledge to the Marines around him. The ultimate goal of a distinguished marksman is to pass his skills on to his shooters and to be the low man on the range without lowering his standards, by teaching the student to outperform the teacher."
He said the sad thing about the field is it is still a secondary MOS. Once a Marine develops in the program at MTU and becomes a good shot, he goes back to his unit and may never be used to pass on the knowledge of marksmanship he has learned.
"Marksmanship has always been the basic foundation of the Marine Corps," said Sulik. "Marines have been qualifying and shooting guns since the Marine Corps has been around. The Marine who can't shoot doesn't really understand his weapon system or the fundamentals of marksmanship. Once he learns that, he'll enjoy shooting."
There are often benefits to teaching Marines how to shoot. Sulik's leadership as an instructor paid off this year when the station team at Stone Bay took the Elliott Award at the Eastern Division Matches, then won the Combat Infantry Trophy Team Match. The success didn't stop there. They went on to place first as the Infantry Trophy Team at the All Marine Championships and ultimately at the prestigious Inter-Service Championships.
"That has never happened in the history of the Inter-Service Championships," said Sulik. "That's like the AAA team sweeping the World Series in four games. It's never happened. It's always been the All-Guard, All-Army or All-Marine team that picked their best shooters for their team.
"There's never been a station team in the Marine Corps that has had the level of success this team has had. That's due to the attitude of the Marines working out here. The harder I worked them, the harder they worked. The more knowledge we fed them, the hungrier they got for more knowledge and skills."
No team, regardless of the sport, has ever gone far without a great coach and Sulik's accomplishments impressed the officers over him at MTU. That's why he was selected for the award.
"This is the most prestigious award you can get in the marksmanship field," said Waynesboro, Va., native, Chief Warrant Officer-3 Dean Duncan, chief range officer, WTB. "Some think it's getting distinguished shooter. It's not. Staff Sgt. Sulik is by far, the most deserving Marine I've known. It's for everything he's done for 15 years. He didn't stop shooting when he got distinguished. He passed his knowledge on to other Marines."
During Sulik's award presentation in Quantico, Marine Corps Rifle Team coach, Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock III, son and namesake of the legendary Marine sniper was present. According to Sulik, he and the younger Hathcock had grown up together in the competition arms program, and even shot together on the station team in the 1980s.
"It was humbling because of Hathcock," Sulik said. "I felt like I should be presenting someone else an award for letting me do this. I'd work for gas money to get here. When you love doing your job and your Marines would rather come to work than be off, you've got it made. You're going to be successful when you've got a crew of Marines like that.
"How many people can say they enjoy getting up and coming to work in the morning?" Sulik said. "This is the best job in the Marine Corps!"