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By Pat Lisi/Southern Utah Vets Aid

The “butts” in Marine language refers to the area down range from the firing lines where the targets are set.  In the butts, recruit Marines work the carriages that contain the targets for the other recruits to shoot at.  When a series of firing is complete, the two groups of recruits trade places so that the ones who were working in the butts get to take a crack at the targets.

In the “butts” there is a long line of chain-driven carriages.  When the command is given to raise the targets, the recruits all lift their carriage in unison so that no shooter back on the firing line gets cheated out of precious seconds to take his or her shots at the target.  There is a range master in the butts who gives the commands.  It may sound like this:

“Now reach down and grab  hold of em’…stand by…targets!”  At that moment all the targets are lifted into the air by way of their carriage, and in a few seconds the bullets come flying down range through the targets.  The recruits in the “butts” are sitting on concrete benches that are tucked down and back from the carriages, kind of like a baseball dugout.  it is not possible to get hit while working the butts, unless you are crazy enough to get off that bench and head out beyond the butts and up towards the berm where the rounds are hitting.

When there are a few seconds left of a volley of fire the range commander will get the recruits on their feet near their carriages and then call like this:  “Now reach up and grab hold of em’…stand by…targets!”  At that moment the recruits working the butts will pull the carriages down so that the shooters back up range don’t have anything to fire at anymore, and the shooting then ceases.  The job of the recruits in the butts is to then mark the targets.  They will put white markers in the holes made on any black portions of the target, and black markers on any holes made in the white portions which are, of course, non-point scores as they are outside the desired target area.

When the targets are all licked and sticked and rammed and jammed with markers, the range master gets on the horn again and gives the command, “Now reach up and grab hold of em’…stand by…targets!”  Up they all go for the shooters and their coaches to see from the firing lines so the scores can be recorded.

If a recruit misses the entire target he is given a “Maggie’s drawers” signal.  This is when the recruit down in the butts slowly waves a white sign on a long pole across the face of the target he is tending, so that all the recruits and their DI’s back on the line can see that it was a clean miss.  Maggie’s drawers are anything but desirable and it is not good for that recruit once the DI gets him back in the barracks.

Working the “butts” was always a fun job, I thought.  It was comic relief for one, and actually quite relaxing even though the commands of the range master had to be followed exactly, and on time.  You had to be quick about marking the targets, because there was limited time even between series of volley of fire.  Shooting and working the butts was a good part of boot camp, and most Marines really like that week.  Unless, that is, they happen to get too many Maggie’s drawers!

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