Steel on target, science

~114th Fighter Wing Guardsman hones marksmanship skills at MAC match
by Capt. David Bedard, National Guard Marksmanship Training Center

CAMP GUERNSEY JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Wyoming –When South Dakota Air National Guard Master Sgt. Derrick Burkhart squeezed the trigger of his M16 rifle, the firing pin punched a dot-sized perforation in the primer of a 5.56-mm cartridge, starting a chain reaction of burning gunpowder that pushed the steel-core bullet through the resistance and stabilizing twist of the barrel rifling.

Once the furiously moving projectile cleared the muzzle, it plunged through the hot-summer air at more than 3,000 feet per second, which is more than 2,000 mph, or faster than an F-15 Eagle at full afterburner. The round closed the 75-meter distance to the target in an instant, rewarding Burkhart’s precision with steel on the mark.

The science and technicalities of bullets are matters not lost on Burkhart, who is a munitions specialist with the 114th Fighter Wing where he and the Airmen he leads build AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munition smart bombs for the wing’s F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters.

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Master Sgt. Derrick Burkhart, a munitions systems specialist with 114th Fighter Wing, South Dakota Air National Guard, shoots in a rifle match during the Marksmanship Advisory Council Region 6 championship at Camp Guernsey, Wyo. The MAC matches are battle-focused marksmanship sustainment exercises, designed to validate and sustain perishable marksmanship skills essential to mobilization readiness and success. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. David Bedard/Released)

Though the smaller munitions are dwarfed by the 20-mm rounds he loads by the belt into F-16s, Burkhart nonetheless takes great care to consistently guide 9-mm pistol and 5.56-mm rounds to their mark during his participation in the Marksmanship Advisory Council Region 6 Championship at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, Wyoming, from July 25 to 28, 2019.

The championship is a battle-focused marksmanship sustainment exercise, designed to validate and sustain perishable marksmanship skills essential to mobilization readiness and success.

The marksmanship match tested Burkhart’s skills of marksmanship precision he has honed since shooting .22 rifles with his father and siblings, scoring paper silhouettes and punching holes through soda cans.

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Master Sgt. Derrick Burkhart, a munitions systems specialist with 114th Fighter Wing, South Dakota Air National Guard, scores a target following a rifle match during the Marksmanship Advisory Council Region 6 championship at Camp Guernsey, Wyo. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. David Bedard/Released)

“Being native to the Midwest, we naturally grow up shooting rifles quite a bit, so it was pleasant finding out the 114th Fighter Wing had a shooting team,” Burkhart said. “I jumped on the opportunity.”

That jump came four years ago when the Airman entered his first regional competition with the wing, and he has made the pilgrimage ever since to wherever the Championship landed in the Northwest.

Still, the sharpshooting Airman said he never knows what to expect during a championship. Throughout various courses of fire, he could be firing an M9 pistol in a stress shoot, close-quarters marksmanship with a rifle, or long-range shooting where he will have to dial in his sights to compensate for the arcing trajectory of the round past 300 meters.

Burkhart said the skills he picks up during competition are beneficial when he shares them with Airmen in his wing or with friends when he is enjoying his lifelong passion of converting ammunition into marksmanship excellence.

“Whatever you acquire here, it’s important to share with the people you shoot with, whether it’s for qualifying or just having fun,” he said.

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Master Sgt. Derrick Burkhart, a munitions systems specialist with 114th Fighter Wing, South Dakota Air National Guard, patches a target following a rifle match during the Marksmanship Advisory Council Region 6 championship at Camp Guernsey, Wyo. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. David Bedard/Released)

About Us: Established in 1968, the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center (NGMTC) is the National Guard Bureau’s (NGB) center for managing marksmanship training courses and competitive marksmanship programs. It serves all 54 states and territories and is located on Robinson Maneuver Training Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The NGMTC is headquarters for the “All Guard” service rifle, service pistol, multi-gun, and international combat teams. The NGMTC is also home to the annual Winston P. Wilson National Championships, where guardsmen may earn the NGB Chief’s 50 Marksmanship Badge. For more information call 501-212-4531/4549, visit us at https://ngmtc.wordpress.com or http://www.facebook.com/NGMTC.

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