by U.S. Army Maj. Theresa Austin
National Guard Marksmanship Training Center
October 9, 2018
The sun beats down on two machine gunners, from Delta and Charlie Team, as they lay prone on the grass providing suppressive fire at enemy targets 600 meters away, while their riflemen sprint forward on line with them completing their eight-man section.
As Charlie team sees the enemy appear, they leap forward into a sprint, moving up and down hills and jumping over trenches to take a prone firing position just 100 meters forward. As soon as they open fire on the enemy, Delta team takes off in a dead sprint maneuvering these same obstacles to move online with them.
Sweat pours as each team member, wearing at least 22 pounds of gear and body armor not including their helmet, weapon and ammunition, continues this explosive bounding forward maneuvering these earthen obstacles until they are 300 meters from the enemy, and within the range of the average Soldier’s marksmanship ability. They continue forward 200 meters, riflemen taking a kneeling firing position and machine gunners prone, as they take out the remainder of the enemy targets with a fierce lethality.
Reminiscent of combat environments, this was just one of over 24 different operational “combat style” shooting matches conducted at the 2018 United Kingdom Defence Operational Shooting Competitions (DefOSC) held June 17-26, 2018 at Bisley Camp and the Army Training Centre Pirbright, Woking, England.
During the Army Reserve Operational Shooting Competition portion of DefOSC, the National Guard All Guard International Combat Team displayed their lethal skills winning first place in five matches and placing top three in 11 of the 13 matches.
“This competition was challenging and more realistic in regards to combat type shooting than other matches we shoot,” said All Guard Team Member Staff Sgt. Michael Richey, with the Missouri National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters.
“All the events were like combat,” said All Guard Team Member 1st Lt. Garrett Miller, with the 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment Penn. Army National Guard. “Each event was custom tailored to apply competitive pressure to the participants in different ways.”
Being lethal in combat is not an easy task. One of most challenging parts to this competition, similar to combat, was the speed required to move into position and engage the targets.
“The competitors are challenged to sprint 100 meters forward, charge their rifle, obtain a steady position and fire as many rounds as possible at a 100 meter target in just 25 seconds, then remain in position and fire the rest of the remaining rounds of a 20 round magazine in 35 seconds at a 200 meter and 300 meter target. Then from there the match moves right into three more phases without any reprieve,” said Miller as he described the Attack and Reorganize Assessment.
Describing the Urban Contact Assessment event, Richey said “100-300 meter targets would expose themselves for only three or four seconds, during which time we had to go from the standing position to the kneeling position and engage the target.”
As if the speed of movement and target engagement was not enough of a challenge, and ease of movement was further impacted by the pounds of gear and body armor they were required to wear, which is a similar requirement for combat.
“It was difficult to balance the thrill of charging forward and diving into position, with the need to calmly place shots center mass in each target before the time expired,” said Miller, “oh, and all while wearing body armor, plates, and ten kilograms (22 pounds) of kit.”
“The requirement to wear body armor and gear during the match, greatly increased fatigue throughout the competition and also heart rate during the course of fire,” added Richey.
While the individual aspects of the competition were challenging and combat oriented, the team matches seemed to be most like combat.
“The team matches were most like combat situations,” said Michael Richey, Missouri National Guard. “You had to shoot, move and communicate as a team, which is what you’ll be doing in combat.”
Representing the U.S. National Guard All Guard International Combat Team were 10 members and two team managers who included:
• Maj. David Stapp, team OIC, Arkansas National Guard
• Master Sgt. Greg Neiderhiser, team NCOIC, Pennsylvania National Guard
• Capt. Robert Lee, team member, Texas National Guard
• 1st Lt. Garrett Miller, team member, Pennsylvania National Guard
• Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Catlin, team member, Colorado National Guard
• Sgt. 1st Class Paul Deugan, team member, Iowa National Guard
• Sgt. 1st Class David Keenom, team member, Tennessee National Guard
• Staff Sgt. Brandon Hornung, team member, Illinois National Guard
• Staff Sgt. Michael Richey, team member, Missouri National Guard
• Sgt. Tyler Goldade, team member, North Dakota National Guard
• Sgt. Maxium Nickerson, team member, Vermont National Guard
• Spc. Jeremy McCombs, team member, Colorado National Guard
All Guard Team came here with the main goal of winning the Fortuna Trophy, and pushing themselves to their limits, they did that and more.
“The competition for the Fortuna is between the United States National Guard and the British Army Reserve,” said Neiderhiser. “It consists of four matches: the Advance to Contact, Defence Assessment, Pistol Close Quarter Battle, and Urban Contact Assessment-Rifle.”
In addition to the Fortuna Trophy, several other awards were won by the team and individual members:
• Fire Team Combat Snap Shooting Assessment – Team
• Fortuna Cup (highest individual aggregate on the Fortuna winning team) - Miller
• Advance to Contact (Contributes to Fortuna Trophy)- Miller
• Pistol Close Quarter Combat (Contributes to Fortuna Trophy) – Deugan
• Urban Contact Assessment (Contributes to Fortuna Trophy) – Richey
• Fleeting Encounter – McCombs
“Winning matches that utilize rifle and pistol show how well-rounded of a shooter you are,” said Richey. “It felt good to win a combined rifle and pistol match.”
“Winning the Fortuna Cup,” said Miller, “is what I consider the highest honor I could possibly achieve at any operational shooting competition, because of the other names that are inscribed on it.”
He continued, “Every year, the trophy is engraved with the winner's name. There are two names in particular that have great relevance to me, 1st Sgt. Greg Neiderhiser, and Capt. J.R. Treharne. Now Master Sgt. Greg Neiderhiser and Col. J.R. Treharne, have both served as influential coaches and professional mentors to me since I was a young Cadet. I certainly wouldn't be where I am today as a competitor and a Soldier if it wasn't for their mentorship. Knowing that my name will be forever displayed next to theirs on that trophy pays special tribute not just to my achievement, but their skill and passion as coaches and professionals.”
The All Guard Team not only accomplished their goal, winning the Fortuna and many other honors, but the most important thing they gained was better combat oriented marksmanship skills and knowledge to bring back to the U.S.
“This competition helps us validate our training methods and strategies,” said Miller.
“Soldiers from all ranks, MOS’s, status and levels, attend and try their best. This multi-echelon exposure allows everyone to progress much faster than they normally would with just isolated training back at their home unit. Here they can pick and choose tactics and techniques they observe from Soldiers standing right next to them on the firing line and bring those back to their home unit. “
“This competition was challenging and more realistic in regards to combat type shooting than other matches we shoot,” said Richey. “Our team participating in this competition enables us to bring that challenging and realistic style of shooing back to our respective states.”
These competitions are training multipliers that need more attention and participation.