Virginia Guard marksman selected for All-Guard Marksmanship Team

Spc. Steven Fletcher, of the 29th Infantry Division, tries out for the All-Guard Marksmanship Team at Camp Robinson, Ark. Fletcher distinguished himself at previous marksmanship competitions and was asked to tryout for the All-Guard Team. (Courtesy Photo)

SANDSTON, Va. – Virginia Guardsman Spc. Steven Fletcher, of the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division, honed his marksmanship skills early. “I have grown up hunting and shooting, and have always enjoyed it,” Fletcher said. Now, Fletcher holds a coveted spot on the All-Guard Marksmanship Team, shooting on both the combat and pistol teams.

It all started when Fletcher, originally from Warrenton and currently residing in Culpeper, signed up to compete in his unit’s marksmanship competition, held earlier this year over the unit’s annual training period. The top four shooters from that competition, which included Fletcher, formed a team and represented their unit at the state level competition, held in June at Fort Pickett, Va. Again, Fletcher earned a top spot and a chance to compete in the Marksmanship Advisory Committee Region II Marksmanship Sustainment Exercise, the regional marksmanship competition held in August at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. There, Fletcher again excelled, placing second overall.

After the regional competition, Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Jones, assistant state marksmanship coordinator, mentioned to Fletcher an upcoming small arms clinic, held at Camp Robinson, Ark., and hosted by the National Guard’s Marksmanship Training Unit, and suggested that he attend.

“The clinic was a week long and mainly taught good shooters how to be better,” Fletcher said. “During the course they also looked for shooters who were performing above average, and asked them to stay for the All-Guard tryouts held the following week.”

Fletcher was among those asked to stay.

The All-Guard Marksmanship Team includes both Soldiers and Airmen from across the country and includes three teams – pistol, combat and rifle. During the tryout process, potential team members shoot in all three categories.

“The first three days were spent on service rifle,” explained Fletcher. “The service rifle team competes with match grade rifles, including the M1 Garand, at distances up to 1,000 yards, but we only shot with match grade M16s from 100 to 600 yards.”

The following days were split between combat and service pistol tryouts. In the service pistol matches, shooters fired at 25 and 50 yard targets, while combat tryouts required shooters to fire from 25 to 500 meters with the M16 rifle, and from three to 25 meters with the M9 pistol.

“During the matches and exercises we were evaluated by several different coaches on our performance,” said Fletcher. “They evaluated us not only on our scores and how well we shot, but also on our willingness to be coached and our ability to be a team player.”

Fletcher excelled at the tryouts, earning a spot on both the All-Guard pistol and combat marksmanship teams. On the combat team, shooters primarily shoot with standard issue M9 pistols and M4 carbines or M16 rifles, with shotguns and M249 squad automatic weapons used occasionally. Shooters primarily fire using advanced combat optical gunsights, or ACOGs, except during specifically designated iron sights-only matches.

“Spc. Fletcher is a natural,” Jones said. “He possesses skills and abilities that most shooters wish they had. Now that he’s an All-Guard member, his skills will improve and he in turn will be utilized as a tool to help improve marksmanship proficiency at the unit and state level.”

As a member of the All-Guard Marksmanship Team, Fletcher will have the opportunity to compete in marksmanship competitions at the national and international level, competing against different military service and civilian teams.

On Fletcher’s future experiences on the All-Guard Team, Jones said, “he will be exposed to some of the most knowledgeable marksmanship trainers, shooters and leaders the Army has to offer. He will learn to shoot, move, and communicate in a manner that he’s never experienced.”

For shooters looking to improve their marksmanship skills, Fletcher insists that practice makes perfect. “The best way to get better is to practice the right way. Even if you don’t have an M4 or an M9, practice with what you have. Stick to the fundamentals of marksmanship,” he said. “Yes, there are little tips and tricks to help you shoot better, but everything is based on the four fundamentals.”

Virginia Guard Soldiers interested in participating in Virginia Guard marksmanship events should look for letters of instruction posted in their local armories and for announcements on the Virginia National Guard Marksmanship Training Unit Facebook page.