Story by: 2nd Lt. Memory Strickland and Capt. Theresa Walker
Photos by: 2nd Lt. Memory Strickland
ARMY TRAINING CENTRE PIRBRIGHT, WOKING, England – The All Guard International Combat Team went to the United Kingdom in June 2016 to compete in the British Army Reserve Operational Shooting Competition for the 1st time since 2005 , with one main goal; win the Fortuna Trophy.
The team of the best combat shooters in the National Guard attended accomplished their goal for the first time since 2000. Team member Army Sgt. Justus Densmore, Texas Army National Guard, won the High Shooter award on the Fortuna Trophy winning team and Best International Individual Champion, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Noe, Arkansas Army National Guard, was the Champion Pistol Close Quarter Match Assessment, which was a contributing event for the Fortuna Trophy.
“I’m very honored to be one of the few, National Guard Soldiers, to ever get the chance to compete for the Fortuna Trophy,” said Sgt. Densmore.
The Fortuna is a competition between the United States National Guard and the British Army Reserve. It consists of four matches: the Defense Assessment, the Advance to Contact, the Pistol Close Quarter Battle, and the Urban Contact Assessment- Rifle.
“I have used the knowledge gained form these style matches,” said Sgt. Densmore, “to train three engineer companies, preparing for deployments around the world.”
The competition for the Fortuna dates back to 1882, when the trophy was presented by the National Rifle Association of the United States to the winning Great Britain Volunteer team in the International Military Matches at Creedmoor, England.
After 1932, the competition halted and was reinstated again in 1993. 2000 was the last time the All Guard team won the Fortuna Trophy, which remains on display at the NRA Museum of the United Kingdom in Great Britain, since it is so large.
It wasn’t just by chance or the luck of the draw that the shooters were on this team. The team is comprised of the top combat shooters in the Guard, who competed for their place on the team. Prior to their historic winning of the Fortuna Trophy, they trained together both in England and at home.
“As an individual, it was a great honor winning the Fortuna Trophy” said Sgt. Densmore, “but it took our whole team to pull it off. We all came together to build each other up and help each other shoot the best possible scores we could.”
Each service is allowed to have one team of eight members and the team who has the highest aggregate scores determines the winner.
The eight members and two team managers representing the All Guard International Combat Team included:
Maj. David Stapp, OIC, Arkansas Army National Guard
Master Sgt. Greg Neiderhiser, NCOIC, Pennsylvania Army National Guard
1st Sgt. Jonathan Chapman, team member, Louisiana Army National Guard
1st Sgt. Tommy McGee, team member, Louisiana Army National Guard
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Deugan, team member, Iowa Army National Guard
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Noe, team member, Arkansas Army National Guard
Sgt. Justus Densmore, team member, Texas Army National Guard
Sgt. Evan Messer, team member, North Dakota Army National Guard
Sgt. Jeremy Steffel, team member, Virginia Army National Guard
Sgt. Brandon Swanson, team member, Wisconsin Army National Guard
The team spent a week at Robinson Maneuver Training Center, Arkansas training together before going to Army Training Centre (Pirbright) in Woking, England.
“As cliché as it sounds, the fundamentals are key,” said Sgt. Densmore. “Steady position, proper trigger squeeze, sight picture and breath control, have to be focused-on and fine-tuned before you ever begin shooting for time or speed. Once the fundamentals have been refined, I can then focus on the actual courses of fire for the event.”
“The focus of training prior to going to England was to learn the complex match courses of fire that the team had to fire for the Fortuna matches”, said Maj. David Stapp, Operations Director for the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center (NGMTC). “The shooters had the time to begin visualizing the courses of fire and some of the unfamiliar firing positions that were used.”
When the team arrived in country, they participated in practice matches, which were set up the same as the competition matches.
“The practice matches helped us get familiar with how they do things here, it is a lot different than in the states,” said 1st Sgt. McGee.
In England, the soldiers are responsible for knowing the course of fire for the match they are participating. The range controller only gives the command “Watch out, Watch out”, to signify the start of a round.
This style of completion is different from matches at NGMTC. At NGMTC the competitors are given the commands on the course of fire before each firing round.
Despite the differences, the All Guard team met their objective and returned as Fortuna Champions. They, also, plan to return next year to defend their title of the Fortuna.
“The next major step in preparing for next year’s Fortuna meeting is to attend the Canadian Armed Forces Small Arms Concentration in Ottawa, Ontario this September. The courses of fire and match conditions are very similar to those in England and will be a great training opportunity to gain more valuable experience with these style matches,” said Maj. Stapp.