2020 NGMTC Courses continue with COVID-19 precautions

~Marksmanship is the key to lethality SDM, SAWE continues amid COVID

By Maj. Theresa Austin, Public Affairs Specialist, National Guard Marksmanship Training Center


The National Guard Marksmanship Training Center (NGMTC) will host two more courses in fiscal year 2020, a Squad Designated Marksmanship Course July 10-24, 2020 and Small Arms Weapons Course July 25 thru August 7, 2020. These courses, open to the total force, will have enhanced COVID-19 precautions, and will be conducted at Robinson Maneuver Training Center, North Little Rock, Arkansas.

“Despite the disruption from the Coronavirus, the staff at the NGMTC has been working with the Arkansas National Guard to safely facilitate these events and our competitions, the Winston P. Wilson Small Arms Championships and Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting, which continue to bring together the best marksmanship competitors in the world and enhance our operational readiness,” said Lt. Col. David Stapp, NGMTC deputy commander.

On June 29, 2020, the Arkansas Adjutant General, working with the Arkansas Center for Health Protection, approved the NGMTC to move forward with conducting the last two marksmanship courses for fiscal year 2020 provided the soldiers remain on Camp Robinson and take enhance health-safety precautions, according to Stapp.

Some precautions the NGMTC is taking include pre-screening, screening on arrival, and daily screening, as well as wearing masks in class, reduced attendance, increased rooming space, controlled dining facility, and travel restricted to on installation.

“These precautions are to help reduce the spread of COVID and its risk to not only our students but our families and communities here and abroad. As well as, to support the efforts each state making to protect its populations which is of the utmost importance, in response to this pandemic, but we also have a responsibility to our combatant commanders to provide skilled marksmen,” said Stapp.

Even though the United States continues to persevere through COVID, readiness remains a key priority for the National Guard. Units must be ready to mobilize, deploy and defend our national interests both in and out of country.

“The National Guard has supported more than one million overseas deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, the Balkans, Guantanamo Bay, the Sinai, and other locations since 9/11,” according to the 2021 National Guard Burau Posture Statement.

The key to fighting and winning America’s wars is training, and marksmanship training such as SDM and SAWE directly impact our soldier’s fighting capabilities.

The SDM course is intended to produce riflemen capable of directly supporting the squad with well-aimed shots at ranges slightly beyond the normal engagement distances for riflemen out to 600 meters.

“All soldiers are trained to engage targets out to 300 meters, and Snipers, typically, operate independently of the units and operate 600 [meters] and further,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Milstead, senior instructor of the Marksmanship Training Battalion, NGMTC.

He continued, “The thing that is good about an SDM is they are a rifleman first, operating as a member of the rifle team within the unit, and they increase the lethality of the unit because now they have someone who can engage targets out to 600, and who can spot and target-ID targets further than the normal soldier. So, this gives an overall increased lethality to that rifle team just by having that one SDM soldier in it.”

The SAWE course is designed to strengthen marksmanship competency within units from the ground up. Every student in the course is instructed on the fundamental tasks of every small arms system and their range operations. It is focused on gaining a true mastery of each system, therefore making it their responsibility to ensure their skills are spread throughout their unit.

A SAWE graduated is taught “a technical and tactical proficiency in all small arms weapons and is a subject matter expert in that unit to ensure soldiers get correct training,” said Milstead.

“There have always been myths where training has been put out. There is a saying ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect,’” he said. “If you do something wrong over and over your just instilling bad habits. So the purpose is for us to show them what right looks like so they can take it back, which is going to overall increase the readiness and lethality of other soldiers, who are not going to be regurgitating false information to lower enlisted throughout their career.”

As the NGMTC plans to move forward with training, the National and multi-national competitions are still fresh on the minds of the staff.

As of now, the 2020 WPW and AFSAM Rifle & Pistol Championships are rescheduled to fall 2020. AFSAM is scheduled for Sept. 14 thru 26, 2020 and WPW is scheduled for Sept. 18 thru 25, 2020. However, the Coronavirus situation across the Nation will continue to be monitored.

“We understand the fluid nature of this situation and the constantly changing responses to these emerging threats and appreciate all of the support and cooperation within our marksmanship community,” said Stapp. “

For more information on how to get involved please visit us at ngmtc.wordpress.com or facebook.com/NGMTC.

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