VNG Soldiers compete in pistol marksmanship match

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group compete with the M4 pistol during a competition Aug. 19, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Jeff Clements)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Virginia Beach-based 329th Regional Support Group and the Fort Pickett-based VNG Marksmanship Training Unit combined efforts to host the Excellence in Competition Pistol match Aug. 19, 2020, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. A total of 80 service members participated in the event in the hopes of earning the Bronze Excellence in Competition Pistol badge, awarded to the top 10% of shooters. 

For many of the 329th’s Soldiers, competing during their two-week annual training, this was their first experience firing the Army’s M9 pistol. 

“A lot of these Soldiers had never even fired a handgun before,” said VNG marksmanship coordinator Sgt. 1st Class Joel Kliesen of the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. “We have several police officers, corrections officers, a couple of local competitive shooters, but for a lot of these folks we were starting from nothing.” 

Master Sgt. Sammy Jones, formerly the state marksmanship coordinator now with the 329th, referred to the EIC match as “the humbler” that challenges even the most proficient shooters. 

The first stage of the competition saw shooters engaging targets at 30 yards with one minute to fire five rounds at target one before reloading and firing five rounds at target two. 

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Jeff Clements)

The second stage moved up to the 25 yard mark where at the start signal, shooters drew their weapon, took a knee and engaged target three with five rounds. Next, shooters reloaded and engaged target four with five rounds from the prone position.

After being cleared by a range safety officer, shooters moved forward to score their targets for the first two stages. Shooters then moved to the 20-yard mark for stage three, where they had 20 seconds to engage two targets with five rounds each. Stage four repeated that process, but from the 15-yard mark with only 15 seconds to engage the targets. 

The targets used for these 40-shot matches had scoring rings worth between two and five points. An “X” ring at the very center of the target was also worth five points, but more X ring hits by a shooter was used as a tiebreaker in case two shooters drew even. 

This competition style training helps to develop a shooters ability to gain proficiency with their weapon system while adding a level of stress that will help them deal with real world situations should they arise, according to Kliesen.

“Obviously combat is a very stressful environment,” Kliesen said. “This contributes to what we term stress innoculation. The more a Soldier performs in training under stress, the more they are able to do those things under the greater stress of combat.” 

Once all shooters had gone through the match, scores were totaled and awards were handed out to the top shooters. Eight Soldiers qualified in the top 10%, earning the EIC badge from Fort Benning, Georgia:

Warrant Officer Justin Linker, 276th Engineer Battalion

Sgt. 1st Class Patric Corbin, 3rd Battalion, 183rd RTI

Staff Sgt. David Dick, 3rd Battalion, 183rd RTI

Sgt. 1st Class Travis Epling, 3rd Battalion, 183rd RTI

Sgt. Logan McGinnis, 3rd Battalion, 183rd RTI

Sgt. David Hennaman, Maneuver Training Center Fort Pickett

Staff Sgt. Rick Hyde, 3rd Battalion, 183rd RTI

Sgt. Paul Floyd, 1032nd Transportation Company, 329th RSG

Warrant Officer Justin Linker of the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion took first place in the Excellence in Competition match, with a score of 162, plus 3 Xs. 2nd Lt. Christopher Newell of the Gate City-based 1032nd Transportation Company won the first place Marksmanship Excellence Award with a score of 184 points plus 2 Xs. 

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Jeff Clements)

Six laser-engraved knock down targets were presented to Newell, Linker and the second and third place finishers for each category. 

Virginia National Guard Excellence In Competition Award-Pistol 

1st Place- Warrant Officer Justin Linker, 276th Engineer Battalion  162 points, 3 X’s 

2nd Place- Sgt. First Class Patric Corbin, 183rd RTI 159 points, 5 X’s 

3rd Place- Staff Sgt. David Dick, 183rd RTI 145 points, 3 X’s 

329th RSG Marksmanship Excellence Award- Pistol 

1st Place- 2nd Lt. Christopher Newell, 1032nd Transportation Company, 329th RSG, 184 points, 2 X’s  

2nd Place- Spc. Robert Munsey, 1032nd Transportation Company, 329th RSG 181 points, 2 X’s 

3rd Place- Spc. John Freeman, 1032nd Transportation Company, 329th RSG 179 points