ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Aug. 6, 2008) -- A Nevada Guardsman finished second in an international military pentathlon event in Istanbul, Turkey, July 4-13.

Teamed with a British and a German soldier, Spc. Bill Raitter finished second in the international team category of the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers, or CIOR, military pentathlon competition. He was the only American to earn a podium spot and was the first-ever enlisted Guardmember to place at a CIOR pentathlon.

"We were second-to-last going into the last day, but then I let my running skills take over," said Raitter about his team's come-from-behind move against 15 other teams in the category. "Our map reader was great," he said.

The three-day competition included rifle and pistol shooting on day one, land and water obstacle courses on day two and an orienteering, or land navigation event, on day three.

Competitors fired a rifle in the prone position at targets 200 meters away and a pistol at targets 25 meters away while standing. The land obstacle course consisted of 20 obstacles spaced over 500 meters; the water course had five obstacles over 50 meters. The orienteering/military skills event was a cross country land navigation course covering several miles. Competitors had to wear their military uniforms and carry a weapon while completing an assortment of military skills including map reading, distance estimation, and grenade throwing.

A team from France won the overall, with three U.S. teams - one "veteran" and two "novice" - finishing 35th, 37th and 47th out of 49 teams. An injury during the second day of competition hurt the U.S. veteran team's chances.

The United States CIOR Military Pentathlon Team was made up of Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Grant Staats, Army Reserve Lt. Col. Matthew Lissner and Army Reserve Maj. Lawrence Gnewuch (Team 1); Vermont Air National Guard Capt. John Zimmermann, Florida Army National Guard Capt. Derick Taylor, and Florida Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Andrew Garcia (Team 2); Florida Army National Guard 1st Lt. Leala McCullom, Kentucky Army National Guard Capt. Robb Campbell, and National Guard 1st Lt. Varinka Barbini (Team 3).

The support staff included Staats, who served as chief of delegation; Vermont National Guard Spc. Bruce Beauregard (shooting coach); Nevada National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 3 Liz Karosich (athletic trainer); and Vermont National Guard Maj. Teresa Benevento (observer/coordinator).

Raitter tried out and made the U.S. squad as an alternate in late June, becoming the first NCO to do so. The U.S. CIOR team was only open to reserve officers up until this year.

Raitter's running resume is impressive: he won the National Guard Marathon in 2002 in 2:33:04 - 3rd overall out of about a 1,000 finishers - and finished second the year before. He said that those results helped open doors to train and compete in other Army-related programs.

"My name got spread around everywhere," he said. "I got on the biathlon team, then I got on the triathlon team, then I got an e-mail about this event here in Istanbul, which I didn't know anything about."

In addition to the pentathlon competition, the event builds international military relations, which Raitter experienced.

"I've seen so much culture and interacting with all the different services that are here this week, I'm taking away a greater world view," he said. "You see so many different things. You look at your pond and you only see your pond - now the ocean gets bigger."

Taste of Culture

Military members experienced Turkish culture through official dinners, cruises on the Bosphorus River and a shopping visit to a bazaar. The competition featured an opening, closing and awards ceremony.

Raitter is a dental technician with the Nevada Guard in Reno on drill weekends and works at the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office in Carson City during the week. He spent five years in the Air Force before joining the Army Guard and hopes to receive a direct commission later this year. He is a botanist by trade and has previously worked in national parks throughout the western United States.

His goal for next year is to make the novice team and compete in Denmark.

CIOR, commonly referred to by its French acronym, represents the interests of over 1.3 million reservists across 36 participating nations within and beyond NATO, making it the world's largest military reserve officer organization. Founded in 1948 by the reserve officer associations of Belgium, France and the Netherlands, CIOR is now a NATO-affiliated, non-political and non-profit umbrella organization of member nations' national reserve officer associations. The CIOR meets twice a year to work through committees that examine issues and provide analysis relating to reserve forces.

In 1948, CIOR created the CIOR Military Competition (Pentathlon) to promote physical fitness and camaraderie among NATO reserve officers and to provide valuable international exposure. The pentathlon occurs annually with the location rotating between the participating NATO countries.

The pentathlon was a part of the larger CIOR Summer Congress, held in Istanbul as well, that focused on reserve force development, especially strengthening employer support programs and legislation.

According to, 40 countries compete in roughly 12 pentathlon events annually, with about 700 male and 200 female ranked competitors. The CIOR pentathlon is the most prized of these events.

Training camp

The Vermont Guard and National Guard Sports Office hosted a training camp in June at the Ethan Allen Firing Range and Camp Johnson in Vermont. Raitter finished third, winning the 800-meter run, five-mile run and 50-meter swim time trials. But when it came to swimming with his uniform on, mandatory in military pentathlon, he did poorly.

At the end of camp, Raitter was selected as the first enlisted member of the U. S. CIOR Military Pentathlon Team.
Good fit

The National Guard Sports Office in Vermont is making a push to become the Defense Department's CIOR executive agent, or the organization that runs the program, which is currently vacant. The officials believe, among other reasons, that CIOR strongly supports the National Guard Bureau chief's international relations initiatives including the State Partnership Program.

"I see the CIOR program as a perfect compliment to National Guard Sports, and it closely matches the mission and value of the Biathlon Program," said Benevento, through e-mail. Benevento and the Guard's Sports Office she heads organized, resourced and ran this year's training camp and team selection.

According to Benevento, when the Army Reserve "owned" the CIOR program, which included a funding source, there was a great amount of interest and participation. However, when it decided in 2005 not to administer the program any longer, the novice training camps and recruitment slumped. For competition years 2006 and 2007, the onus of participation fell onto the reserve component of each athlete (vs. funding through a specific program manager) and so the teams were limited to veteran athletes who had past experience.

(Master Sgt. Greg Rudl serves with the National Guard Bureau. Reporting by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Steve Staedler also contributed to this story.)