Virginia Guard Soldiers, Airmen compete in state-level marksmanship matches

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen compete in the Adjutant General’s Pistol Match June 28, 2014, at Fort Pickett, Va. Over 30 Soldiers and Airmen from units across the state participated in the event, as both members of a team and as individual shooters. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen compete in the Adjutant General’s Pistol Match June 28, 2014, at Fort Pickett, Va. Over 30 Soldiers and Airmen from units across the state participated in the event, as both members of a team and as individual shooters. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. – At Fort Pickett, Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from units across the commonwealth received the chance to show off their marksmanship skills at the Adjutant General’s Rifle Match, held May 16-18, 2014, and at the Adjutant General’s Pistol Match, held June 27-29, 2014. The Soldiers and Airmen competed both as individual shooters and on four-member teams, vying for the chance to move forward to the regional competition.

“This program is designed to improve individual and unit combat readiness within the Army and Air National Guard. It identifies above average shooters who are then selected to represent Virginia at higher-level matches,” explained Sgt. First Class Sammy Jones, Virginia National Guard marksmanship coordinator. “These annual TAG matches are not only a competition but also a training event for those in attendance.”

Soldiers competed in a variety of matches at both competitions, testing their marksmanship skills and their abilities to operate not just as individual shooters firing at targets on a range, but also their capacity to operate as a member of a team and shoot, move and communicate effectively.

“Anybody – even somebody who hasn’t touched any of the weapons systems before – can do this, and they should at least come out and try it,” explained Sgt. Hunter Kelley, a squad leader from the Bedford-based Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “It helps to hone your shooting skills, plus you get contacts with different people from different units and different branches.”

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen compete in the Adjutant General’s Pistol Match June 28, 2014, at Fort Pickett, Va. Over 30 Soldiers and Airmen from units across the state participated in the event, as both members of a team and as individual shooters. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen compete in the Adjutant General’s Pistol Match June 28, 2014, at Fort Pickett, Va. Over 30 Soldiers and Airmen from units across the state participated in the event, as both members of a team and as individual shooters. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

For the first time in several years, the pistol match included shooters from the Virginia Air National Guard, including Staff Sgt. Mark Kramer, a structural craftsman with the Camp Pendleton-based 203rd RED HORSE who said he and other Airmen in attendance had to try to keep up with Army and that “It’s always good bragging rights if we can beat them.” Kramer also appreciated the chance to build camaraderie between the services and to network with fellow marksmanship experts.

While the marksmanship competitions give Soldiers and Airmen a chance to show off their shooting skills, the focus at the matches is often on the training benefits to all shooters, even the most experienced. Match organizers are often looking for new ways to enhance the experience, putting shooters in unique scenarios that may become useful in potential future combat situations.

“This year we incorporated a foreign weapons stage utilizing AK-47’s along with individual and team matches,” explained Jones. “This taught the shooters how to load, unload, engage targets and disable the weapon.”

Shooters also encountered a “battlefield pick-up scenario,” during which they encountered a downed enemy combatant, armed with an AK-47 and two loaded magazines which the shooter then had to secure and use to engage multiple targets, “as he or she may have to do as a last resort on the battlefield,” according to Jones.

“These events allow our servicemembers to push the limit past what they’ve done during most live fire exercises,” Jones said. “They are able to shoot more, shoot farther and shoot faster and learn methods of mitigating recoil and stress while finding that acceptable sight picture.”

Rifle Match Rankings

Sgt. Steven Fletcher, assigned to Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, took first place overall for the second year in a row. Second place went to Spc. Jeremy Steffel, assigned to Troop C, 2nd Squardron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th IBCT, and third place going to Staff Sgt. Tony Hancock, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute.

Pfc. Jon Wheeles, from Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT, earned recognition as the first place novice shooter.

Team Rankings:

1st Place Team Overall: Sgt. First Class Ross Lockard, Sgt. David Hennaman and Staff Sgt. Chad Stigall, all from the Manuever Training Center, and Staff Sgt. Tony Hancock, from the 183rd Regiment, RTI.

2nd Place Team: Sgt. First Class Michael Angell, of the 29th Infantry Division, along with Staff Sgt. Michael Wells, Staff Sgt. James Litkenhaus and Spc. Matthew Shirey, all from the 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th IBCT.

3rd Place Team: Staff Sgt. Justin Walkup, Sgt. Derek Rine, Spc. John Miller and Wheeles. all from 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT.

Excellence in Competition Match:

1st Place: Staff Sgt. Tony Hancock – 3rd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, RTI
2nd Place: Sgt. Steven Fletcher – Co. A, 116th BSTB, 116th IBCT
3rd Place: Staff Sgt. Chad Stigall – Maneuver Training Center

Soldiers who excelled at the state level will go on to compete regionally, and, if they perform well at the regional level, will go on to compete at the national level against Soldiers and Airmen from across the country.

Pistol Match Rankings

Sgt. First Class Sammy Jones took first place overall in the pistol match, with Spc. Jeremy Steffel, from the 2-183rd Cavalry Regiment, taking second, and Pfc. Zachary Wilson, from Company C. 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT, taking third.

Wilson was also recognized as the first place novice.

Team Rankings:

1st Place Team: Sgt. First Class Matt Stemmler, Staff Sgt. Michael Nguyen, Spc. Aaron Haynes and Pfc. Zachary Wilson, all from Company C, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

2nd Place Team: 1st Lt. Conner Miller, Staff Sgt. Travis Sydow, Spc. Tyler Johnson and Spc. Typer Simpao, all from Company B, 3st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT.

3rd Place Team: Staff Sgt. Mark Kramer, Staff Sgt. Steven Bond, Senior Airman Raymond Foote and Senior Airman Patrick Gomoljak, all assigned to the 203rd RED HORSE.

Excellence in Competition Match:

1st Place: Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Jones – 183rd Regiment, RTI
2nd Place: Pfc. Zachary Wilson – Company C, 1-116th IN
3rd Place: Staff Sgt. Tony Hancock – 18rd Regiment, RTI

Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from units across the commonwealth compete at the 2014 TAG Rifle Match May 17, 2014, at Fort Pickett, Va. The Soldiers competed in a variety of matches, testing their warrior and marksmanship skills and were scored as both individuals and as members of four-person teams. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from units across the commonwealth compete at the 2014 TAG Rifle Match May 17, 2014, at Fort Pickett, Va. The Soldiers competed in a variety of matches, testing their warrior and marksmanship skills and were scored as both individuals and as members of four-person teams. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Photos: Soldiers compete for marksmanship honors in TAG Pistol Match – June 28, 2014

Photos: Va. Guard holds 2014 Rifle Match – May 17, 2014