~Marksmanship; the great equalizer
by Maj. Theresa Austin, National Guard Marksmanship Training Center
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Penn. (September 4, 2020) –“These matches are the great equalizer…I don’t care whether you’re Army or you’re Air. I don’t care what rank you are or whether you are an officer or you’re enlisted. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the Army, or whether it’s your first time or you’ve been a five-time champion,” said Pennsylvania Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Tony Carrelli, remembering his opening speech from the Adjutant General’s (TAG) and Governor’s 20 Matches, two weeks ago.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“All that matters, today, is holes in the paper.”
Marksmanship matches are what the Pennsylvania TAG was referring.
Almost daily, he observed the Marksmanship Advisory Council Region Two Championship, an elite shooting championship for National Guard Soldiers and Airmen hosted by the Pennsylvania National Guard in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, August 27-30, 2020.
Eight teams from four states were in attendance: Ohio (an honorary team hailing from MAC Region Four) and regional teams from Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. They all went head-to-head on Fort Indiantown Gap’s shooting ranges to determine the marksmanship individual and team champions. The match was sponsored and supported by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center for National Guard members to hone their perishable marksmanship skills while competing in a unique combat-focused training environment.
“Lethality and marksmanship are important when we deploy to combat environments, so we can create overmatch on our enemies,” said First Sgt. Michael Tompko, the MAC Region 2 representative and Pennsylvania senior marksmanship coordinator. “If we can engage the enemy at farther distances than they can engage us, we save ammunition, save lives, and increase the chances of us being victorious and more guys coming home.”
While lethality and marksmanship are important take-aways from these matches, there is also discipline. According to Maj. Gen. Carrelli, the discipline practiced here has an even greater impact across the military and into more facets of each person’s military career.
“If you look, it’s more than just about the shooting, about being experienced, and knowing exactly how to get a good score,” said Carrelli. “There’s a matter of discipline to get through the course of fire. Obey the rules. Do the things that you’re supposed to do under pressure, while it’s timed, while everybody’s watching and if you can do that here, you can apply that to any MOS (military occupational specialty) or AFSC (Air Force specialty code). So, that’s what we’re hoping, also, to get from these matches.”
He continued, “People get to compete, there’s some camaraderie here, but it also teaches them discipline that you’re going to bring back into other facets of your career and I think, as a whole, it’s going to make our military better.”
The MAC Two Championship was divided into seven separate courses of fire using service rifles, service pistols, and shotguns: Special Zero, Combat Rifle EIC, The Odds are Against Your Team, Reflexive Fire, General George Patton Combat Pistol Team Match, Combat Rifle EIC, and Bianchi Battle.
The Odds are Against Your Team Match is a match that is unique to MAC Region Two and is highly applicable to combat situations and helps develop discipline.
“It’s three targets. You’re transitioning between those three targets four separate times, keeping round counts, keeping up with your magazine changes, and trying to hit the five-ring every time,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Lee Jones, a Pennsylvania National Guard Soldier who read the range commands.
He described the match, saying there are three targets, 25 rounds, five magazines, and 40 seconds to complete the match.
At the sound of the horn, the competitor must come up from the low ready position to acquire their set of targets and fire one round from their first magazine in target one.
Their first transition is to target two, which requires they fire three rounds from the first magazine.
The second transition is to target three, requiring them to fire the last round in the first magazine, reload, and fire four rounds from the second magazine.
Their third transition is back to target two where they fire the remaining round in the second magazine, reload, fire all five rounds from magazine three, load their fourth magazine and then fire one round.
The last transition is back to target one. There they fire the remaining four rounds from their fourth magazine, reload their fifth and final magazine and fire the remaining five rounds, resulting in 10 hits in target one and two, and five hits in target three.
“The match is designed to exercise your rifleman fundamentals of mag change, target acquisition, and thinking while you’re shooting,” said Lee.
Marksmanship is important to Sgt. 1st Class John Nebzdoski, first time MAC competitor from the Pennsylvania National Guard. He says, shooting bad guys is one of the core things we do in the military.
“It requires a lot of muscle memory,” he said. “You really get to build that muscle memory here and add to that skill. Also, it’s great to be competitive. I believe in the military, everything from APFT [Army Physical Fitness Test], ACFT [Army Combat Fitness Test], AWQs [Annual Weapons Qualifications] out to these kinds of competitions here.”
Competition challenges people to improve, according to Nebzdoski. “Competitive competition breeds excellence.”
“When you get people competing, they want to be better,” he continued. “And when every individual Soldier becomes better at their individual tasks, such as firing a weapon, the team becomes better. And when the team is better, the National Guard is better and then we become a better Army.”
This year, Nebzdoski placed tenth in the Pennsylvania Governor’s 20 Matches, the following week he earned the individual overall rifle second place, and during the 2020 MAC 2 Regional, he earned second place novice individual overall aggregate champion. So, this philosophy has worked well for him and he encourages others to get involved.
“Anybody, from a from an E-1 cook to Special Forces, get out here and try this. It’s fun,” he said. “You’re in a paid status to fire weapons and to better yourself. Get out here; have fun. There’s a lot of camaraderie. A lot of people help one another; a lot of people give advice…So, anybody, just get out here and do these things.”
“It’s a fun event; team-driven,” said 1st Sgt. Foster Kennedy, Ohio National Guard. “There’s a lot of morale that’s built off that. Be there just as soon as you get the opportunity.”
For Kennedy, this competition is the last in his career. As he retires from the Ohio National Guard, he encourages others to participate in matches like the MAC to improve their marksmanship skills should they be called to deploy.
“A National Guard stands ready,” said Kennedy. “‘Fight tonight’ is an Ohio motto we like to say for being ready. These matches are designed around combat experiences that are going to hone your skills. They, kind of, warm you up for if and when you’re called.”
— Results —
Overall Aggregate Team Champions
- Pennsylvania Alpha – 3144-43x
Staff Sgt. Douglas Costello, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Denver Gillham, Sgt. Jason Goodling, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Richard Jones
- Delaware Alpha – 3090-26x
Staff Sgt. Christopher Brookens, Sgt. 1st Class Justin Clymer, Capt. Brian Peterman, Sgt. Albert Whitlock
- Pennsylvania Charlie – 3083-33x
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Andrew Harrison, Tech. Sgt. Shawn McCreary, Master Sgt. Eric Moskal, Airman Nicholas Yackovch
Overall Individual Aggregate Champions
- Master Sgt. Edward Altmeyer, Pennsylvania Air National Guard; Score 621-13x
- Chief Warrant Officer 4 Richard Jones, Pennsylvania Army National Guard; Score 619-17x
- Staff Sgt. Christopher Brookens, Delaware Army National Guard; Score 615-11x
Novice Individual Overall Aggregate Champion
- 1st Lt. Zachary Brewington, Ohio Army National Guard; Score 609-19x
- Sgt. 1st Class John Nebzdoski, Pennsylvania Army National Guard; Score 593-16x
- Staff Sgt. Adam Grove, Pennsylvania Army National Guard; Score 591-15x
Individual Rifle Aggregate Champion
- Staff Sgt. Christopher Brookens, Delaware Army National Guard; Score 418-6x
- Chief Warrant Officer 4 Andrew Harrison, Pennsylvania Army National Guard; Score 415-5x
- Master Sgt. Edward Altmeyer, Pennsylvania Air National Guard; Score 411-4x
Individual Pistol Aggregate Champion
- Sgt. 1st Class Scott Sheroky, Pennsylvania Army National Guard; Score 216-9x
- Chief Warrant Officer 3 Denver Gillham, Pennsylvania Army National Guard; Score 216-7x
- Chief Warrant Officer 4 Richard Jones, Pennsylvania Army National Guard; Score 214-5x
Additional scores can be found at https://wpwafsam.weebly.com
For more photos from this event visit us on Flickr.
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.