FORT STEWART, Ga. (June 17, 2016) - Staff Sgt. Sergio Hernandez, an infantryman of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, competed in the Eastern 3-Gun Nation Regional Championship June 18 - 19 at The Clinton House, Clinton, South Carolina.
Competitors used three different firearms, a modern sporting rifle (MSR), a pistol and a shotgun. Matches generally involved courses where the shooter must move through different stages and engage targets in a variety of positions. Each stage requires the use of different firearms and the shooter must transition between them.
"There are 4 stages of fire per day that last around 6-7 hours," Hernandez explained. "A lot goes into the event, from planning your stage, to resetting the stage after a shooter has gone through. Lots of hurry up and wait while you're watching other competitors' game plans and seeing how you can tweak your own."
Time plays a crucial role in Hernandez's shooting. This hobby requires a large amount of time and dedication which is difficult to balance with the needs of the Army.
"This event is one of the biggest events I will get the opportunity to attend," said Hernandez. "I didn't get a chance to attend Nationals last year, so now I have to make up lost time from my Africa deployment. I also get to hang out with my best friend and mentor Ray Helms."
"Hernandez had a great desire to shoot 3-Gun and I was operating a 3-Gun nation club at the time," said Ray Helms, a police officer of Hendersonville County, Nc. "He took criticism well and quickly learned how to be proficient with his weapons platforms."
Hernandez says he learns something at every competition, and this one is no different.
"The biggest challenge will be stage planning," Hernandez explained. "I've been learning to write things down, go over them mentally and work through the stage verbally and mentally before stepping up to the line."
He said the events are fun, gives him an adrenaline rush and is a great way to meet new people.
"My first major match was the Task Force Dagger," Hernandez explained. "After that I was hooked. I have shot 4 major regional matches around the U.S. and it's made me a better competitor."
"Task Force Dagger is a series in 3-Gun that is dedicated to veterans and the special operations community," explained Hernandez. "I enjoy the fun, camaraderie and the experience these events have to offer."
Helms explained, "I have attended many 3-Gun and Military/Law Enforcement Shooting events with Hernandez. The best moment would have been shooting in the Task Force Dagger match in Alabama. Torrential rains, mud up to your knees, dragging skedco's, and just having a great weekend."
Hernandez has patience and doesn't let a mistake ruin the rest of the stage. Patience pays a large toll in competitive shooting along with staying level headed after a mistake, Helms explained that this is what Hernandez has.
Weapon systems are very different from one another and many competitors are more proficient on a specific weapon.
"My strongest I would have to say is my rifle," said Hernandez. "I spent a lot of time and money tuning and perfecting it. I learned awhile back if you can master a rifle you can master a pistol and shotgun easily."
Competitors have to register online for the match which fills up in a matter of minutes. There can only be 275-300 competitors for an entire region.
Hernandez explained there are a variety of prizes if you place in the event.
"Depending on where you place, you get to either pick up a rifle, pistol, shotgun, or a pretty decent prize off the prize table," Hernandez said.
He finished in the middle of the pack, and says he'll be ready for the next event.
"I'll be going to the Georgia 3-Gun Championship in August, and I'm going to place in the top 40, that's a fact," said Hernandez. "Next time I have to focus on sticking to my game plan and not deviating from it."
Hernandez suggests events like this and believes the shooting helps keep one of his Soldier skills sharp.
"It ties into a lot of the type of shooting we do, especially in the infantry," said Hernandez. "Shooting is one of those perishable skills, and another reason I do it is because it's fun."