FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airman assigned to units across the Commonwealth made a strong showing at the Marksmanship Advisory Council Region II match, with VNG teams taking second and third place overall at the competition Aug. 26 - 28, 2022, at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.
“The MAC II Match, conducted by the Pennsylvania National Guard Marksmanship Training Unit, is an annual event to promote marksmanship training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tony Hancock, assigned to the Virginia Army National Guard’s Marksmanship Training Unit, 3rd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. “This training exercise disguised as a competition offers service members an opportunity to test marksmanship skills and weapon systems in a battle focused environment.”
Hancock was one of four shooters in Virginia’s Team Alpha, which took second place in the team competition. Virginia’s Team Charlie took third place, marking a strong showing from the Virginia National Guard’s shooters in the match, which includes a variety of team and individual-based marksmanship challenges.
“This event entailed small arms disciplines on both the M17/M18 pistol and shooter’s choice of M-4, M-16A2, or M-16A4 rifle platforms, utilizing optics and iron sites, throughout a regimen of 10 unique team and individualized matches,” said Hancock.
Competing against shooters from Region II designated states, which includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey and Washington D.C. National Guards, Virginia’s competitors used their training and skill to rise to the challenge.
“I believe we represented very well,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maverick, one of Virginia’s shooters. “We all came out in force and were willing to learn not only from each other but from other units as well. We were able to very easily mix with one another and assist each other in the development and growth of marksmanship and team building.”
The benefits of competing in this type of marksmanship event is myriad, according to 1st Lt. Noel Robleto, one of Virginia’s shooters and company commander for the Leesburg-based Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“It strengthens retention, some of the soldiers develop a drive to become distinguished, and want to be better marksman to get more opportunities to leg in pistol and rifle,” said Robleto. “It also strengthens marksmanship knowledge that the soldiers bring back to their home units, which breeds results on the battlefield.”
The teamwork required to be successful also means an environment unique to the military.
“This unique marksmanship experience is the fourth wall of the military, where usually rank or positions drive the unit, this line is erased in marksmanship,” explained Robleto. “Every Soldier has equal footing to perform better and hold a higher position on the results table regardless of rank or position in their M-Day side. This helps humble leaders, and also provides opportunities to shine and develop outside normal military parameters. Soldiers become better leaders, as seniors in these matches look up to the knowledge of the lower enlisted, and sometimes vice versa. It is not your rank or position that will determine how you do or what awards you get, rather it will be your marksmanship skills.”
Virginia National Guard shooters will next compete in two national-level competitions. The U.S. Army Small Arms Championship, known as the “All Army” competition, is scheduled for March 2023, and is hosted by the Maneuver Center of Excellence in Fort Benning, Georgia. Virginia will also send shooters to the 52nd annual Winston P. Wilson Small Arms Championship at Camp Robinson, Arkansas. This event is hosted by The National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, and is scheduled in late April 2023.
The Marksmanship Training Unit, in addition to competing, provides a great training resource for units and the individual Soldier, Hancock said.
"The mission for the MTU is to train, refine, and improve marksmanship techniques for individual Soldiers which will ultimately increase individual and unit lethality," said Hancock. "When our Soldiers win and bring home team and individual awards, this validates our training.”
The MTU plans to offer two five-day small arms clinics in FY2023, intended as "train the trainer" clinics open to NCOs as well as officers. Dates have not yet been finalized, but Hancock said the class should be extremely beneficial for all of the Virginia Army National Guard's units.
"The clinic will promote training interest and raise the standards of proficiency in the use of individual service weapons and optics," said Hancock. "It will improve marksmanship training techniques and help improve weapons and equipment associated with the combat Soldier."