Marksmen prepare for competition
The Missouri National Guard's Alpha team prepares for a match at the Winston P. Wilson Marksmanship Sustainment Training Exercise in North Little Rock, Ark. The Missouri Alpha team was the overall winner of the prestigious event where 400 of the best Guard shooters went head to head in rifle, pistol, machine gun and various other matches.

CAMP ROBINSON, Ark. (Army News Service, Nov. 8, 2010) - For the first time in the 40-year history of the national-level Winston P. Wilson Marksmanship Sustainment Training Exercise, the Missouri National Guard brought home the championship trophy, leaving the Show-Me State marksmen both surprised and brimming with pride.

The marksmen beat out 400 shooters from 42 states and two territories.

"I was ecstatic," said Master Sgt. Benjamin Israel, a member of the 139th Security Forces Squadron in St. Joseph, of his team winning the All-States trophy. "When they called third place, I thought, 'Okay, we got second place or fourth.' When we didn't get called for second place, I thought 'fourth.' I was completely surprised."

"I feel this is a big win for Missouri because it hasn't been done before, and especially considering that the states we went up against held such talent," said Staff Sgt. James Phelps, of Jefferson City. "As the team captain, I wanted us to perform to the best of our ability and to come together as a team and be consistent and we did that."

For five days, 400 Soldiers and Airmen battled on the ranges at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Ark., during the premier National Guard shooting event. Day to day, match numbers swayed, leaving participants unsure of where they stood in rankings. But when the winners of the competition were announced on the final night, Missouri dominated both by team and by individual.

Sgt. James Whitener, a member of the four-man winning Alpha Team, also took the overall novice title, as well as many other awards that kept the Perryville Soldier out of his chair and on the stage to collect accolades and trophies.

"I feel that the All-States win is a major accomplishment for the state and for all the individuals who participated. It shows the true potential and talent of the Missouri National Guard," said Whitener, clearly happy with the results of the training and competition.

In addition to Whitener, Israel and Phelps, Sgt. Ryan Liggett, of Marshall, rounded out the champion team. Liggett and the rest of the Alpha Team also qualified for the Chief's 50 badge, meaning they scored in the top 50 competitors at Robinson. In addition, Liggett earned his Distinguished Pistol Badge by placing in the top 10 percent of shooters in the Excellence in Competition pistol match.

"It was an honor to represent Missouri's Alpha Team and finally bring home the coveted All-States trophy," said Liggett, seemingly more impressed with his team win than individual. "The knowledge you gain from the veteran shooters at this level of competition is priceless."

The Missouri Guard sent two other four-man teams to Winston P. Wilson to battle in rifle, pistol, machine gun, unknown distance and multi-gun matches, with the All-States trophy awarded to the team with the best aggregate scores in rifle and pistol shooting. The Soldiers and Airmen also scored big through the training itself.

"The matches we competed in this year have been a great experience," said Chief Warrant Officer Shaun Defenbaugh, who serves with Company B, 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion at Whiteman Air Force Base in Sedalia. "Being a pilot, I am not able to play the infantry role and shoot as much as I would like to. The competitions allowed the shooters to gain experience and hone their skills."

National Guard Marksmanship Training Center Commander Col. Karen Gattis spoke to shooters before the awards were announced, reminding participants what Winston P. Wilson is all about.

"There's a lot of hardware up here, and things do get emotional toward the last day of competition when the numbers get crunched. But whether you as an individual or your team leaves here with an award, it is the training you take home that is the real prize. Really, you are all winners. I know everyone doesn't always get a trophy, but hopefully, you'll realize that the training is the benefit," Gattis said.

Tech. Sgt. Nathan Nichols, an Airman with the Missouri Guard Charlie Team at nationals, agrees, and described other benefits.

"It's very exciting to be able to bring the experience and knowledge back to other new shooters. The ability to help them attain their goals of expert marksmanship is very satisfying," he said. "Comfort in a stressful environment, such as a firing line, has got to help in real-world engagement. To be able to automatically revert directly to your training and fire control reduces mental shut down."

"I'm sure that all of us have learned something of value during this last week," said Tech. Sgt. Rodd Boyer, an Airman from Gower. "The camaraderie within the state team, as well as between states, was nothing short of spectacular. Everyone [who] was there loves weapons and or competing. Getting tips and learning how to shoot to your potential and beyond is what it's all about. I think that was accomplished at Winston P. Wilson."

The Missouri Guard teams were made up of the best shooters from the state combat matches held at a rainy Camp Crowder in June. The Missouri sharpshooters also won the MAC V regional marksmanship matches at Camp Swift, Texas, in a sweltering August, proving that each individual learns things from each match that makes them better marksmen overall.

"The state rifle pistol shoots are where I first got involved in shooting and there have always been people there to mentor and guide me and teach me things that can't be found in a book," Phelps. "This state has some of the most talented shooters and teachers the nation has to offer."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16