Virginia Soldiers & Airmen compete in state rifle match

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen participate in the Adjutant General’s 2018 Rifle Match May 18-19, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The Guardsmen competed in teams of four in various matches and were awarded individual and team awards. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kellyann Novak)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – Scattered storms and heavy rain made way for a wet and muddy two-day marksmanship competition. Fifty-seven Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia National Guard participated in the Adjutant General’s 2018 Rifle Match May 18-19, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

The annual event is open to all Army and Air National Guard members across the state of Virginia, regardless of rank or weapon qualification scores. Each Guardsman made up a four-person team consisting of at least two novice shooters who have never competed in a military competition.

“The goal is to increase the number of novice shooters each year, bringing more people into the program [and] increasing marksmanship statewide,” said Army Sgt. Alexandra Wilson, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute training technician. “These competitors will bring the skills that they learn this weekend back to their home units and continue expanding marksmanship levels.”

Soldiers and Airmen shot their way through the rain, hitting targets and climbing their way through the ranks. Individuals participated in various matches at two different ranges to test their marksmanship skills. Their scores were used to rank them as individuals and also added to their team’s total. The better they did as individuals, the better their team did as a whole.

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen participate in the Adjutant General’s 2018 Rifle Match May 18-19, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The Guardsmen competed in teams of four in various matches and were awarded individual and team awards. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kellyann Novak)

“All the matches this weekend are designed to be more advanced marksmanship tasks,” said Wilson. “The shooters will have to run and shoot. They will have to engage multiple targets; they’ll have to transition from one target to another. These are all designed to improve combat effectiveness down range.”

The combat exercises coupled with the extreme weather conditions tested the Guardsmen’s skills at a level some were unaccustomed to. “We’re using new sight systems we haven’t used before and putting a lot of rounds downrange,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Ice, a squad leader in the 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group. “We’re using these weapons in a way we don’t ordinarily get a chance to use them.”

An experienced shooter, Ice took first place in both the individual aggregate and excellence in competition. He was also among the top ten shooters awarded the Governor’s Twenty Tab, a state-level marksmanship award given to the top 20 rifle and pistol marksmen in the VANG.

One novice in this year’s competition was Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kelli Eidem, 192nd Security Forces Squadron deployment manager. Eidem was part of the Virginia Air National Guard team along with three other 192nd SFS members. Their team placed second in the team aggregate. Eidem had participated in a civilian competition the month prior but had never participated in a military competition.

“…To shoot like this, you definitely have to have patience, be able to calm yourself, tune everything out and just stay steady,” said Eidem.

Army Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, Assistant Adjutant General, Virginia Army National Guard, visited the Soldiers and Airmen during one of their final matches. According to Mercer, this event provides Soldiers and Airmen with a few takeaways including “good, healthy competition,” opportunity to “shoot and get training with our weapons” and “a lot of fun [with] a different firing table than they’re used to.”

“The RTI group and the team here, especially the NCOs that run this program, are absolutely phenomenal, professional and skilled,” said Mercer. His hope is that the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) at the event will learn from this competition and take their skills “back to their units… train the trainer… and it will trickle down through our formations. That’s a great thing.”

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen receive awards and recognition for their accomplishments during the Adjutant General’s 2018 Rifle Match May 21, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The Guardsmen competed in teams of four in various matches, May 19-20, and were scored on their individual and team performances. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kellyann Novak)

The following Guardsmen were presented with individual awards for the competition:

Individual Aggregate:

  • 1st place: Staff Sgt. Jeffery Ice, 237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group
  • 2nd place: Tech. Sgt. James Allison, 192nd Security Forces Squadron, 192nd Fighter Wing
  • 3rd place: Sgt. Logan McGinnis, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

Novice 1st place:

  • 1st Lt. John Messier, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment

Excellence in Competition:

  • 1st place: Staff Sgt. Jeffery Ice,  237th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group
  • 2nd place: Staff Sgt. Robert Tench, Fort Pickett Manuever Training Center
  • 3rd place: Sgt. Logan McGinnis, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

The following teams were presented with awards for the competition:

  • 1st place: Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
  • 2nd place: 192nd Security Forces Squadron, 192nd Fighter Wing
  • 3rd place: Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

The following individuals were awarded the Governors Twenty Tab:

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Ice, Tech. Sgt. James Allison (repeat recipient), Sgt. Logan McGinnis, Capt. Alex Symons (repeat recipient), 1st Lt. John Messier, Sgt. Charles Block, Spc. Matthew Price, Sgt. Christopher Taylor, Staff Sgt. Bryan Adams, Spc. Zachary Radel