“Waking up in the barracks of Camp Pendleton Marine Corp Base with four days of training Marines ahead of me, was a day I thought I would never have the honor of being asked to do. Here is how that incredible honor came to be.”
My name is Maggie and I am the Founder/Owner and Lead Instructor for Homeland Personal Protection Firearms Training Company and I’m known in the industry as “CCW Maggie”.
With several years of shooting experience and after recovering from a severe neck injury, the decision to re-invent myself as a firearms instructor came in 2009. I started by obtaining all of the requirements to become a conceal weapons instructor which were the NRA Instructor ratings through Personal Protection Outside The Home. For the first two years, I conducted the CCW/CFP courses for NV, UT & FL in addition to a few marksmanship fundamental training classes. With a great response and huge student following, I taught and invested far more than the requirements needed to become a NRA Training Counselor so in 2014 I obtained the TC rating. I have been teaching the NRA courses for students and instructor candidates to become certified instructors since. As a master student graduate, my desire is to help foster a new instructor to teach with the passion and excitement that I do and we now have other instructors working with our company. On the defensive side, I have chosen a firearm for daily protection since 2003. Not only is self-defense a way of life, it is a passion of mine to teach it to others. I’ve had a steady diet of defense training and found, there is much more to being a defense instructor than taking an NRA class. “There is a big difference in learning how to shoot a gun than learning how to use a gun for self-defense”. I am very proud to offer several quality defense training courses to support those interested in carrying a gun in public or for in-home defense. Our training doctrine has evolved with life-saving information and skill development of Combat Focus Shooting as the foundation where I am currently seeking to be certified.
I remember teaching my very first Conceal Carry class to ONE person back in 2010 and since, I have trained over 4300 students to carry concealed firearms in public. With lots of hard work, dedication and an unstoppable desire to teach, my company has made huge strides in business development including some great relationships with partners such as, Rocky Mountain Gun Shows, CCW Safe, Sportsman’s Warehouse, I.C.E. Training, Bass Pro Shops, The Well Armed Woman, Breakthrough, Stealthgear and others.
It was the first week of the year 2015. Normally there was an abundance of emails and calls requesting training, but that week was particularly quiet. I thought the silence was a sure sign of a slow year. Suddenly, I was proven otherwise as an email hit the inbox from Marine Gunner, Anthony Viggiani from the Marine Corp Base, Camp Pendleton. It was a request to bring our training to our Marines. At first, I thought it was another prank or a junk message, but as I read further the message was quite personal and sincere. Along with my husband Ken we graciously accepted and so the communication and coordination began. With the initial correspondence I was still in disbelief as we coordinated the details of the training courses, dates, times, venue and round count. We communicated with Gunner Viggiani for the next three months and received our commitment letter to travel. Our training was set for the last week of April 2015.
In preparation, our excitement was at an all-time high as the day approached and on April 26th we departed for the next five days of an exciting journey. After the 6-hour drive, we arrived at the West Gate of Camp Pendleton and were humbled to meet Gunner Viggiani in person. He was happy to meet us and fought back a smile, because he is a serious guy and comports himself as so. I of course grinning from ear to ear to be in the presence of these prestigious Marines reached out to give them all Mamma bear hugs. Our first order of business was to be escorted to the Armory to secure the 21 firearms that we hauled to the base for training. During that task, we couldn’t help notice the healthy organization of security bands, locks and pelican cases arranged by the Gunner as promised.
Even more notable was the massive respect directed to this very distinguished Marine by all the others who I was corresponding with as “Tony”. We were then given a quick tour of Edson Range including the barracks where we would sleep and the new chow hall where we would eat. As we were taking in the living lifestyle of our next week, it was hard to believe that we were on base preparing for an epic event.
When we arrived in our room, it was literally the bare essentials. I was so thankful we traveled with more than enough gear as we pulled apart the bunkbeds to make a king bed then moved the desk and chest to make our stay as comfortable as possible. We were quite cozy with most of the comforts of home. While organizing our quarters, we could hear lots of chanting in the distance, I stated to Ken “I wonder if that is going to go on all night”. It was10:00pm and the sound of “Taps” rang loudly through the coast air and then, silence. We then knew we were in a very different place than when teaching civilians. Lights Out.
As the morning hours approached our alarms were set, but we woke up well before they went off due to our excitement level being so high. At 5am we were greeted with the morning wake up bugle of “Reveille”. We were up and ready to roll. It was our first experience at the chow hall for breakfast as we sat at Gunner Viggiani’s table. The Chow hall served up delicious made-to-order omelets and waffles along with Starbucks coffee. We were pleasantly surprised.
Then, the moment we had been preparing three months for had arrived. I walked toward the door with butterflies in my stomach, where I knew Marines were waiting for us to teach. We walked into the state-of-the-art training center and were greeted by about 65 young Marines as they were astutely in their chairs ready to learn. Ken and I were both very humbled as we were introduced to our students. We began our morning admin then started our flagship product “Combat Citizen Workshop” which is a Multi-State Conceal Carry Weapons course with an additional skill development handgun training component. We have conducted several similar large group courses, but none with the magnitude of honor and respect of a room full of Marines in their camo uniforms. As in all our training courses, we kept it very professional with lots of high energy then sprinkled with a little humor. Within the first hour we established great rapport and the course materials were well received. With every passing hour, our relationship grew stronger and before we knew it, we were at the end of a very successful lecture.
Now a new level of anticipation was felt before it was time to get on the range. We reserved 8500 rounds of ammunition that was on the pistol range ready to be distributed. We were escorted to the range when upon arrival, it was all hands on deck. Everyone had a job to do as the firearms and the ammo were distributed. Once the targets were placed we listened to the tower for the safety briefing which was an epic moment. Then it was “game on”. We rose to the challenge as we had two relays of about 30 Marines on each line. This range was no ordinary square range, it had targets that would blade and face all by pneumatic operation from the tower on our command via hand signals. We could control the duration of the faced targets and when they would rotate. Drill after drill, I ran the line first then it was Ken’s turn to run the line. It was a great time team teaching with my husband. We were humbled by the presence of Colonel Nash who showed up on the range to welcome us and see us at work. He stayed for about thirty minutes and then left after he received a pat down for ammo, I was a little confused at the sight and then was told it was policy. Iteration after iteration and round after round, the defensive shooting qualification and workshop came to an end. As the sun set it was all hands on deck again to pick up the heavily littered brass left on the field with a final pat down for everyone as we left the range.
The final task before anyone was dismissed by Gunner Viggiani was cleaning all the Beretta M9’s prior to calling it a night. By the end of the day I had developed a high level of adoration for these young Marines. The first day was in the books even though we were tired from the long day, we were also energized by our awesome experience. As “Taps” once again played we knew it was time to get to sleep.
After a great night of sleep, it was day two which was less of a training load and seemed to have been perfectly placed in our schedule to help offset the previous heavy day. Chow hall first then into the classroom once again. Marines were now on the journey of becoming NRA certified. In planning for this trip, this day was going to present a big challenge for the Marines. Because it was an NRA course, they were not to use the word “Weapon” to describe any firearm. Gunner Viggiani and I made it clear that using the “W” word would result in pushing (meaning 10 push-ups). About 45 Marines this time and all participated in the days training events and once again a successful end to a great day with lots of pushing.
On the third day, it was time to introduce the different firearm actions. As CRSO’s, we thoroughly went through the NRA RSO course with about 35 Marines. This was a great course to fine tune safety. The automatics and bolt actions were easy, but most had never seen the lever, pump, muzzle loading, falling block rifles or double and single action revolvers. It was great to have the entire class participate so much enthusiasm. That evening Ken and I had an amazing dinner off base overlooking the ocean while we were still fired up from teaching our marines. Together we planned over dinner for the final day.
The days went by so fast and before we knew it, it was day four. It was time to have Marines get up and conduct their teach backs. I was so honored to be the NRA Training Counselor and have these fine Marines team teaching with each other through the completion of my training course. On this day, I also learned much more about Gunner Viggiani as one of the Marines stated, “He was in awe that the Gunner would be taking this training with him as well”. As I tried to understand, he continued to say “Gunner Viggiani is like the Unicorn you don’t ever see”. Then he said “You are like the Unicorn also Maggie, because we probably won’t ever see another like you either”. I must admit, I was a little choked up.
All was going smooth as The Colonel stopped in to observe the course progress. He pulled me aside as an unbelievable thing then happened. Colonel Nash gave me a huge “Thank You” gentleman’s handshake with a hand off in the palm of his hand which was the coveted Colonel Challenge Coin. I had only herd of this between the guys, so my next move was to quickly put whatever he gave me into my pocket. He expressed great gratitude to us and proceeded to give Ken the gentlemen’s handshake with a challenge coin of his own. I was beside myself. This day went down as one of the happiest moments in my training career. We wrapped up the day by securing the “firearms” in the armory.
At this point I realized this trip was coming to a close as we had developed a strong personal relationship with many of the fine men and women of the last four days of training. One last evening on base ended as we made a final last trip to the BX with some of our new Marine comrades for some special items.
We woke up to the morning bugle. It was time to pack up our room and put things back the way they were. We went to the chow hall for one last breakfast with Gunner Viggiani. We were sent off with lots of hugs, handshakes and requests to return.
We were requested by the Colonel for a formal meeting in his office. With the Lieutenant Colonel and Gunner Viggiani present, all were pleased with the quality of our training ability along with our conduct on base. As the conversation continued I still remember the words from Colonel Nash, “Where do we go from here”? I always measured the success of this trip not only by having the amazing opportunity to train Marines but whether we would be invited back. Well, there it was. We were graciously asked to return in the future. The Colonel stated, “Marines have a significant amount of training and now when they leave the Corps, some will have a certification as well”. This was important to him.
Speaking with Gunner Viggiani we learned so much more about him. He has served three tours and received the Navy Cross during his deployment. It is truly our honor to know this fine Marine. He sent us on our way after our meeting with a big smile and a hug. To this day we remain friends with his Mother, Father and are proud to know Anthony Viggiani on a personal level. We are forever grateful for all he did to make our trip possible. We are forever grateful. – Semper Fidelis
One of my most distinguished accomplishment this year was to work with and train our great Marines at Camp Pendleton’s Edson Range in CA as the first female non-military commissioned civilian Instructor.
It was a life changing event that we will always remember as we look forward to our next trip.