By Capt. Joseph W. PaytonDecember 19, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- If any Soldiers are not sure how Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, feels about marksmanship, his message is clear.
"There will not be another division in the Army that shoots better than us," he said.
Townsend and Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, division senior enlisted adviser, presented the 10th Mountain Division Marksmanship Award streamer to D Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, and C Troop, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, during an awards ceremony Friday for being the first units to successfully achieve the division's new marksmanship standards.
Soldiers of D Company, 2-22 Infantry, were the first to accomplish this task.
"Charlie Troop and Delta over here in 'Triple Deuce' have blazed a path for everybody else to follow," Townsend said. "I expect you all to get in line right behind them and follow through."
The marksmanship streamer criteria outline several requirements, including 75 percent of personnel qualifying at least "sharpshooter" on the first qualification attempt with no more than five percent of the unit's Soldiers failing to qualify on the first attempt. Those who fail to qualify on their first attempt must on their second attempt, and they can only be counted as marksman despite their second attempt qualifying score.
This applies to all Soldiers who are assigned and available.
"The criteria itself was pretty hard," said Capt. Christopher Perrone, former commander of D Company, 2-22 Infantry. "The biggest thing was just getting all of those training distracters put to the side and getting everybody the time to train and focusing on the fundamentals of marksmanship."
The 10th Mountain Division implemented the marksmanship recognition program at the company, troop and battery levels to promote and recognize marksmanship on assigned weapons. This program, which exceeds the Army's minimum qualification requirement, awards qualifying units with a streamer for their unit guidon presented by the commanding general and division command sergeant major.
Townsend realizes he has set a high standard.
"I set a minimum bar for our division," he said. "As far as I know, we're the only division in the Army with sharpshooter as a minimum standard."
According to a memorandum distributed to 10th Mountain Division Soldiers and tenant units on Fort Drum, the ability to effectively employ a Soldier's assigned weapon during combat operations is a hallmark to achieving small unit effectiveness and proficiency. Emphasis on proper techniques and practice at home station is the key to marksmanship on the battlefield.
"Setting the bar high like the commanding general has done really makes them try to improve their fundamentals," said Capt. Josh Sider, commander of C Troop, 1-71 Cavalry.
Although earning the marksmanship streamer was a unit goal, the efforts to achieve the standards for the streamer have significance beyond the range.
"It's a good thing. It keeps you honed in on your skills," said Perrone. "The standard is that you go out straight from the arms room. You draw your weapon, go out to be able to shoot the first time. If you can do that here, then you can do that anywhere in the world."
Soldiers are expected to train and be ready for known and contingency missions. Townsend's focus on marksmanship is to ensure they are undeniably proficient on their assigned weapons.
"I want our Soldiers to be confident and competent," he said. "I want you to get in the foxhole and I want you to know at a minimum you're going to be a sharpshooter. And, if you're having a good day, you're going to be expert."
In a rhetorical question, Townsend emphasized one of his motivations for the stringent marks- manship standards.
"How many times do you get to re-fire your first firefight?" he said.
The streamer expires 12 months from the date it is physically awarded to the units.