Virginia schoolhouse to host marksmanship contest


A Virginia National Guard Soldier fires their assigned weapon during qualification at Fort Pickett. Soldiers will fire similar weapons during the 2012 Adjutant General’s Small Arms Combat Marksmanship Match Program at Fort Pickett May 18-20 for pistols and June 22-24 for rifles. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — To identify the best shooters in the commonwealth and build esprit de corps, the Virginia National Guard’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute will host The Adjutant General’s Small Arms Combat Marksmanship Match Program at Fort Pickett May 18-20 for pistols and June 22-24 for rifles. Soldiers from across the state will represent their units, including the 116th Brigade Combat Team, the 192nd Fighter Wing and the 266th and 229th MP Companies.

Organizers of the events say they can handle up to nine four-man teams for the pistol competition and 13 teams of four for the rifle competition. The matches at Fort Pickett will serve as qualifying events for teams to represent Virginia at the regional level events at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., and the national matches at Camp Robinson, Ark.

Although the number of participants the RTI can handle is high, the number of participants may fall short due to conflicts in Soldier schedules.

“Participation in matches flexes from year to year because of units’ real world missions,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jerome Reynolds, state marksmanship coordinator. “Between 20 and 30 Soldiers is normal.”

“It’s hard to say how many we will see,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Jones, assistant state marksmanship coordinator. “We’ve seen anywhere from 10 to 15 shooters or even 20 to 30. Participation typically depends on, one, how the matches are advertised and two, troop availability.”

An underlying theme of the competition is focusing on a Soldier’s most important basic skill, the ability to engage targets effectively with their assigned weapon systems. Part-time Soldiers on the National Guard may only fire their weapons a few times a year due to a laundry list of training requirements being crammed into one weekend a month and two weeks a year of available training.

“Given the wide spread missions and responsibilities that we, as citizen-Soldiers, have to the Virginia Guard, our families and our civilian employers, we can be hard pressed for time when it comes to practicing such a perishable skill as marksmanship,” said Jones. “However, in order to be proficient at any skill we have to make time; we have to explore what resources are available to both the Soldiers and our units.”

“I expect the Soldiers to gain the knowledge and the ability to engage targets with confidence if necessary using his/her weapon system, while carrying out their given mission,” said Reynolds. “The battlefield is an unforgiving classroom.”

Jones also emphasizes the importance of weapons familiarization training. He notes that becoming proficient with your weapon can be practiced anywhere, not just at the live-fire ranges.

“Marksmanship training is not just limited to firing rounds down range,” he said. “Dry fire and weapons manipulation is a big part of it.”

“Units will typically make available the Soldiers assigned weapons during drill and (annual training), therefore allowing the Soldiers to get more time to work on the “dime and washer” drills, firing positions: standing, kneeling , and prone, transition drills between primary and secondary weapons, proper use of cover and concealment and aggressing on a threat. The list goes on.”

Not only do competitions like these improve the shooting skills of the warriors, they also increase morale and retention by competing against the best of the best in the state, the region and the nation.

“The take away is twofold. These matches instill a level of personal confidence and skill, which will prompt the Soldier to react with accurate and well-aimed fire when needed, without overreacting or wasting ammunition,” Jones said. “The combat skills and mindset achieved in the competition arena are contagious. The skills learned here are passed down to the lowest level, in turn, improving marksmanship scores and weapons proficiency of the Virginia Guard. 

“It allows our Soldiers to exceed the standard and test their mettle with some of the best shooters our military has to offer. Either way, seeing Soldiers recognized for being skillful in any field is a morale booster.”