Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Kelvin M. Green, 119th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP JOSEPH T. ROBINSON, Ark.– The National Guard Marksmanship Training Center hosted the 44th annual Winston P. Wilson rifle and pistol championship matches last week at Camp Joseph T. Robinson, North Little Rock, Arkansas.
The Wilson Championship matches are a training exercise consisting of multiple events designed to test and improve the capabilities of individuals and teams participating from National Guard units from around the United States.
Many competing in this year’s event are returning participants who often begin training as soon as they return home from the previous Wilson matches. Each team receives a list of events expected to be a part of the overall competition approximately three to four months in advance, giving them enough time to prepare.
This year nearly 250 individuals participated in the annual event that is considered the premier military competition in the United States. The event not only tests the skills of those participating, but also sharpens their skillset by providing additional information about weaponry and marksmanship that they may not have been aware of before.
Over a five day period, the participants are tested on their ability to not only perform as marksmen but as a team. They are required to fire rifles, pistols and shotguns during the competition, which can at times be just as physically tiring.
“Yeah it’s a lot but you do it because of the love for it,” said Sgt. 1st. Class Jacob Iwanski of the Wisconsin team. “When you’re out there in the moment you’re not thinking about it, so it’s nothing.”
“It sucks being away from family but they understand because of how much I want to be a part of it,” said Iwanski. “I’ve shot at regionals before, but this is my third year competing at Wilson and there’s nothing like it.”
Despite various challenges that many competitors face, they still do not allow it to deter them from attending. Competing amongst some of the best shooters in the country and a passion for shooting is what makes them want to come back according to Sgt. 1st Class Justin Zabinski of the Wisconsin team.
The motivation to compete comes from the love of shooting in general and the fact that we’re learning more about marksmanship, said Zabinski. “We love shooting entirely too much to not come back to next years Wilson, so we’ll definitely be back.”