News: Marine overcomes odds, masters marksmanship
Story by Lance Cpl. Courtney White
OKINAWA, Japan - This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.”
Lance Cpl. Danthanh T. Nguyen learned the hard way how challenging it can be to master the skills of marksmanship but proved triumphant when she shot expert this April on the range at Camp Schwab.
Nguyen, a Houston, Texas native, originally joined the Marine Corps in July 2009 and was discharged from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., that October when she failed to pass rifle qualification.
“As I left Parris Island, I recall someone mentioning the Marine Corps isn’t for everyone,” said Nguyen. “It felt unreal to believe that I had made it so far and yet had not accomplished my goal.”
Trying to adapt to the civilian world and refocus on school seemed impossible, according to Nguyen.
“Keeping in contact with the Marines who had graduated and hearing of their experiences made me feel like I was missing out,” said Nguyen. “I knew I wanted to be a Marine and would do anything I had to to make sure that happened.”
Unlike a lot of applicants, Nguyen walked into the recruiting station at the age of 16, said Staff Sgt. Xavier R. Bynum, Nguyen’s recruiter and the warehouse chief with 5th Battalion, 11th Marines.
“She knew what she wanted and was willing to do anything to become a Marine,” said Bynum. “Before leaving Parris Island she made it clear to everyone that she wanted to return.”
Nguyen hired a professional coach back home and was put into contact with a retired first sergeant who was a former primary marksmanship instructor.
Nguyen practiced marksmanship for months before submitting recommendations from her coaches and recruiter stating she had put forth the effort.
“I submitted my package and waited three months for a response,” said Nguyen. “They approved it and before long I had a ship date.”
Nguyen qualified as a marksman during recruit training and graduated with Company P, Platoon 4034 September 16, 2011.
“I basically spent the last four years of my life trying to become a Marine,” said Nguyen. “I had to finish what I started and earn the title.”
Nguyen later graduated from military occupational specialty school as the honor graduate and was promoted meritoriously to lance corporal. Soon after, she received orders to Okinawa.
“Hitting the fleet, my main goal was to re-qualify higher than I previously have on the range,” said Nguyen. “I was put on the range right after arriving on island, and I ended up shooting expert with a score of 310.”
Nguyen overcame major adversity and that is what makes her stand out, according to Master Sgt. William J. Smith, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Nguyen’s platoon.
“Less than one percent of the U.S. population will ever attempt to join the Marine Corps,” said Smith. “As rigorous as it is, she attempted it twice and completed it.”
Now that rifle qualification is out of the way, Nguyen wants to become more efficient in her job by learning as much as she can from her peers.
“Nothing is ever too difficult,” said Nguyen. “You just have to push through challenges because they won’t last forever.”