By Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma, National Guard Marksmanship Training Center
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – More than 300 U.S. Army and Air National Guard marksmen from 47 states and territories competed in the 46th annual Winston P. Wilson Small Arms Championship at the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center at the Robinson Maneuver Training Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas, July 23-27.
“The WPW matches test the full range of shooting skills, from precise long range shots that demand discipline and patience to rapid reaction engagements at close range that demand quick, decisive action,” said Col. Dennis Humphrey, the officer in charge of NGMTC. “This is not a competition for specialists in a single event. The teams that compete and hope to win here must excel from one end of that spectrum to the other.”
Iowa’s A team, comprised of Sgt. 1st Class Paul Deugan, Staff Sgt. Karl John, Tech. Sgt. Matthew Waechter and Sgt. Brent Smith, took the all-state trophy with a total rank score of 50. Wisconsin’s A team followed in 2nd place with 69 points, and Illinois’ A team took third with 73 points
Although Iowa’s team came in 1st place among all of the states, two shooters distinguished themselves from all of the individual marksmen who competed.
Deugan, a veteran in these competitions, and Smith, who competed in the novice category, both made several trips to the stage during the awards ceremony to accept multiple first place trophies in individual events. Deugan has only missed four of these matches over the past 11 years, due to deployments.
“I’ve shot on the All Guard Combat Team for about a year and a half now,” said Deugan. “With the experience I’ve gained from going to England and Canada last year, I had a lot more time behind a gun practicing and training with the best marksmen in the National Guard.”
Smith said that he started his Army marksmanship career last year and that he was glad that he was able to progress to a national match so quickly. “The key to being successful is to watch the old guys,” he said. “I just watch them to pick up on any tips or tricks they can give me.”
The WPW, usually held in April, was held in July this year. The three-month delay brought on much hotter weather than usual. Temperatures soared over 100 degrees at the peak of every day, but the competitors slogged through the hot, muggy weather to continue with the match.
The NGMTC holds four other national competitions every year, including the Armed Forces Skills at Arms Meeting (a multi-national competition), a sniper competition, the Chief National Guard Bureau Postal Match and a light machine gun match.
“Although highly competitive, the WPW matches are not games. They are an objective assessment of the top products of our marksmanship training throughout the force,” said Humphrey. “They validate what works and they identify what does not work. With that information, we can optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of our training throughout the total force.”
In addition to holding competitions, the NGMTC also teaches several marksmanship courses to National Guardsmen from around the country. These courses include Squad Designated Marksman, Sniper School and the Small Arms Weapons Course.
Deugan, who is the state marksman coordinator for Iowa, and Humphrey both stressed the need for proper training to be a good marksman whether a Troop plans to compete or not.
“There’s always been a mystique, this myth of the American Soldier as this magical marksmen,” said Humphrey. “Natural talent for shooting only goes so far. It takes the education piece of it as well.”
For nearly half of a century, the WPW matches have shown that the National Guard is a formidable force when it comes to deadly accurate marksmanship. Most of the top competitors have attended at least one of the courses offered at NGMTC, and some of those marksmen are members of the prestigious President’s 100, which is made up of the top 100 shooters in the country and is open to military personnel and civilians.
“The key to success is focusing on the details and getting proper instruction, because you don’t know what you don’t know,” said Deugan. “Day one of SDM, the first thing I heard was to forget what I’ve been taught about about marksmanship.” He said that even though he was stubborn when it came to changing his technique when he began training as an Army marksman, the advice from the NGMTC instructors ultimately made him the decorated marksman he is today.
*In a previous release, we reported that Vermont won first place in the state championship. Due to computer errors, this was incorrect and has been rectified.