By 1st Lt. David Hoy
The 2nd Engineer Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division sent two teams consisting of junior leaders to compete in the 2015 All Army Small Arms Championships at Fort Benning, Georgia Feb. 1-7.
The weeklong event combined practical training with an opportunity for professional networking with some of the Army’s top shooters.
The 2nd Engineer Soldiers trained for the event by attending two rifle and pistol ranges per week for the month and a half leading up to the competition. Team coach Capt. Brendon Hischar, who had previously attended the All Army Small Arms Championships, taught from training material he received from the Army Marksmanship Unit during a previous Fort Benning competition.
Hischar coached the teams on various shooting positions and firing techniques. In addition, 1st Lt. Cody Millhouse and Sgt. Richard Monsees, who both participated in civilian marksmanship programs, such as Project Appleseed, provided valuable coaching.
After testing which firing positions worked best for them, the team members focused on their particular style. Practices on windy days on the 500-yard known-distance range at White Sands Missile Range proved especially valuable when the teams found themselves contending with strong winds on the first day of the competition.
A typical workday involved leaving the off-post hotel around 5:30 a.m. to make the arms room weapons draw by 6 a.m. Then, the teams received their firing order during “squading” and either headed to the “pits,” where they pulled targets and scored for other shooters, or the firing line, before rotating to the pits later. Soldiers packed their lunches and ate during down time, working well into the evening each day.
“Attendees left the event with a better understanding of and appreciation for the science and sport of marksmanship,” Hischar said. “The leaders attending this event can then share their experience within their current or future unit, which helps improve the marksmanship proficiency of the entire force.”
During the event, attendees fired the M-16 service rifle and the M-9 service pistol in several challenging courses of fire, which ranged from 500-yard precision-rifle fire to rapid, short-range pistol engagements with multiple targets. The event included both individual and team matches, most of which incorporated “stress shoot” elements, such as sprints, runs and position changes.
Firing well over a dozen competitive matches, 2nd Engineer Soldiers found they excelled at Match 8, which incorporated a 1.5-mile run for time and points. During Match 8, Millhouse finished fourth overall and second in the Novice Class earning himself a 2nd in class medal, and 1st Lt. Drew Storey took 25th overall and 14th in the Novice Class. More than 220 Soldiers fired from the 300- and 400-yard prone positions, 200-yard kneeling position and 100-yard standing position during Match 8.
A favorite of both teams was the speed-shooting, multi-gun portion. Several events started with competitors firing their M-16 rifles and then switching to their M-9 pistols to finish steel and paper targets. Each miss counted as a 5- or 10-second point penalty and weighed heavily on the competitors’ minds because, in a match that ends in less than a minute, such penalties can make or break one’s performance. All the team members were grateful for the opportunity to attend the competition and learn how to better coach, teach and mentor others.
The first team from 2E, Praetorian Shield, took 18th place overall and consisted of Hischar, 1st Lt. David Hoy, 1st Lt. Andrew Storey and Sgt. Robert Leake. Individually, they placed 93rd, 57th, 54th and 79th out of more than 150 competitors, respectively.
The second 2E team, Praetorian Sword, took 20th place overall and consisted of team coach Sgt. 1st Class Randy Smith, 1st Lt. Austin Kennedy, Millhouse and Monsees. Individually, they placed 87th, 68th, 46th and 98th out of more than 150 competitors, respectively.