April 21, 2005
By Staff Sgt. Rick DeGraffenreid
QUANTICO, Va. - Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, Battery E, 111th Field Artillery, and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 29th Infantry Division are home to the top shooters in the Virginia Army National Guard. The Virginia Army National Guard State Marksmanship Match – Rifle was held on Apr. 2 and 3, 2005 at Marine Corps Base Quantico. The match tested not only the marksmanship skills of Virginia Guard light fighters but also their ability to successfully endure poor weather conditions with fog, heavy downpours, and winds of 25 to 35 miles per hour during the match.
Heavy rains on Friday and Saturday turned Range 14a at Marine Corps Base Quantico into a river of mud. However, in the “Train as you fight Army,” rain never stops well planned training. Since Known Distance (KD) Ranges with target butts were not available, Virginia Guard members constructed target frames on a multi-purpose range and continued to train. Just scoring their targets meant a 600 meter mud hike downrange and back.
On Sunday, the wind in the wake of the passing storm destroyed target frames and challenged the engineering skills of all soldiers. The wet fields and range policy precluded getting vehicles into the muddy areas, so the shooters had to hump their gear, the targets and the lumber to mount the targets.
The overall match aggregate left Pvt. First Class James Chapman and Pvt. David Buskey in first and second place with Spec. Douglas Costello of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 29th Infantry Division taking third place for the competition. While these troops shot the best, all of the Soldiers shot well for the conditions they encountered. The targets were successfully engaged time after time. The targets used in competition are more realistic than standard silhouettes. Competition targets have patterns on them that make them more difficult to see and the Soldier’s job more difficult.
Chapman and Buskey, both of Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, won first and second place in Match 301 with Sgt. David Begley of Battery E, 111th Field Artillery placing third. Match 301 starts with two “sighter” shots from the prone position at 300 meters. Then, 10 slow fire shots are fired for match score, with each round being marked by a spotter disk. Normally, if the soldier is shooting on a KD range, they can correct if the wind or other factors drift the impact away from the intended “V” ring because they see the impact area of each shot and can correct their sight adjustment or point of aim. The Virginia shooters of Match 301 did not have that luxury. The soldiers with a solid zero, best range adjustments, and best marksmanship skills took the match
Match 306 is a combined match testing shooters skills at engaging targets at 300, 200 and 100 meters distance firing from different positions. Again Chapman took first place with Sgt. John Rothman, and Pvt. Jason Day making it a clean sweep for Company A, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry. This match required extra safety risk assessment and mitigation controls because of the hazardous slippery conditions and the rough terrain. The 100 meter part of the match is offhand (standing) and is the least stable of all the positions. The 200 meter portion is sitting, and the 300 meter position is shot from the prone position. The various methods of movement at combat rifle matches at State, Regional, and National Levels go from tactical line abreast movement, to a rundown pace. Any kind of jog increases the pulse rate and breathing when you are dragging a combat load further than a football field.
The big match, the US Army Excellence in Competition Match 321 was taken by Staff Sgt. Rick DeGraffenreid of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 29th Infantry Division with Chapman and Buskey taking second and third place respectively.
The Excellence in Competition is an award made in recognition of a soldier’s obtaining “LEG” Points at an EIC Match. A special badge is presented by the Adjutant General, Ft. Benning, Ga. As more points are obtained, the color of the badge changes. Points can be earned at military and civilian EIC matches.
Even if a Soldier leaves the military, he or she can continue to gain points through EIC Civilian Marksmanship Program matches. Once 30 points are obtained, that shooter is recognized as a Distinguished Shooter in their category. There are categories for Rifle, Pistol, and International. The Army and Air Guard have a small cadre of double and triple distinguished personnel who are tasked with keeping the marksmanship skills of the Guard at the highest level that time and budget will allow. One of the top shooters (often THE top shooter) in the Department of Defense is Charlie Blackwell, an ARNG Technician from Region 5.
Besides the State Rifle Match, other marksmanship matches are scheduled before the regional and National Championships. Next up is the Virginia Army National Guard State Marksmanship Match – Pistol on May 14 and 15 2005, with the Machine Gun and Sniper Matches following on the schedule. If time and ammo permit the new Homeland Security Military Match will be included in the schedule. This new match is designed to gauge skill in combating an enemy who might be wearing body armor. It is designed to train soldiers how to engage and eliminate moderately armored enemy soldiers or terrorists with precisely placed shots.
This match would have not been possible without the support of Sgt. First Class Ramsey of Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia; Spec. Bell, Match Winner 2003 and Distinguished Marksman; Range Officer in Charge and technical statistical support from Warrant Officer Wessel of the Manassas Data Processing Unit; and Master Sgt. (Retired) Lashley a former “Presidents Hundred” shooter.
A Note for Units sending troops to the remaining matches. Military program range matches are combinations of individuals and teams and resembles a track meet. Some events are individual, some are team based. Units are encouraged to send troops to pistol and rifle matches in groups of four to six soldiers. This allows a team to maintain unit integrity and train as you would fight. This technique also inhibits all the old shooters from ganging up on the inexperienced shooters and gives every unit a fair chance to take some trophies home to the Commander. If you take an extra soldier or two and your top shooter has a bad day, your top scores still might win you a place in the winner’s circle. For machine gun and sniper, teams of two are the minimum (but not the maximum). If soldiers from different units team up, they get the training and enjoyment or participating but can not win as a “scratch” team.
If you desire to enhance your marksmanship skills, there is a clinic scheduled at MCB Quantico for May 7-8 taught by the Marine Corps Rifle Team. For more information, click HERE.
You can also contact the Quantico Shooting Club at 703.640.6336 to sign up. Pistol shooters can see the pistol schedule by clicking HERE.