Virginia dominates at regional marksmanship match

Virginia Guard Soldiers compete in a regional marksmanship competition held Aug. 21-24, 2014, at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. Virginia marksmanship teams took both first and second place in the overall team competition. (Courtesy Photo)

Virginia Guard Soldiers compete in a regional marksmanship competition held Aug. 21-24, 2014, at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. Virginia marksmanship teams took both first and second place in the overall team competition. (Courtesy Photo)

SANDSTON, Va. – Eight of the Virginia National Guard’s top shooters traveled to Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., Aug. 21-24, 2014, to compete in a regional marksmanship competition. The Soldiers, making up two teams, took both first and second place in the overall team events, beating out marksmanship teams from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware for the top spots.

“I’ve always viewed marksmanship as the primary skill of any Soldier,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Joel Kliesen, assistant marksmanship coordinator for the state. “To have any value at all, training must be ongoing and competition is one way to do that.”

The first place regional marksmanship team included Sgt. Steven Fletchter, assigned to the 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Sgt. Jeremy Steffel, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 116th IBCT, Sgt. David Hennaman and Sgt. First Class Ross Lockard, both assigned to the Fort Pickett Manuever Training Center.

Along with being a part of the first place team, Steffel also placed 1st place in the pistol competition, and Fletcher placed second in the combined arms competition and earned his Gold Distinguished Rifleman Badge, awarded to approximately 3,275 Soldiers since it’s inception in 1959. Fletcher is the first Virginia marksman to earn the badge since 1999.

The second place regional marksmanship team included Sgt. John Lora, assigned to the 189th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, Staff Sgt. Tony Hancock, assigned to the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, Staff Sgt. Michael Nguyen, assigned to 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and Sgt. First Class Sammy Jones, also of the 183rd RTI.

Hancock earned the Gold Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge, earned by approximately 1,740 Soldiers since it’s inception. This was the first time a Virginia shooter has been recognized with this badge since 2006.

“The Chief of the National Guard Bureau is a big supporter of the program,” Kliesen said. At this year’s nationals he made a point of not only speaking at the award ceremony, but he also spoke of having shot at the nationals for several years.”

Success at regional and even national marksmanship competitions is nothing new for the Virginia shooters, who have consistently racked up successes over the past several years, placing as both teams and as individual shooters.

“If all goes as I expect next year we will add at least one more distinguished shooter, probably two, and quite possibly a double distinguished shooter for the first time in decades,” Kliesen said.

The mission of the Virginia National Guard Marksmanship Training Unit is to enhance the combat effectiveness of the modern day warrior at all levels by stressing the development of combat skills to improve proficiency above the basic marksmanship requirements and increase battlefield survivability.

For more information on the Virginia National Guard’s Marksmanship Training Unit, visit their Facebook page.