FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Sixteen teams composed of the best marksmen from across U.S. Army Forces Command, the National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve competed in the annual FORSCOM Small Arms Competition at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Oct. 22-26, 2018.

More than 40 Soldiers competed with either the Army's new M17 pistols, M4 carbines, or the M249 light machine guns. Competitors had to shoot on day and night ranges under a variety of tactical scenarios.

This year's small arms competition was the first to include the M17 pistol since the Army fielded the weapon at the end of 2017. Adding to the challenge, participants did not know they would shoot the M17 pistol during the competition until they were issued the weapon prior to going to the first pistol range.

"The trigger squeeze and recoil are so much smoother than the M9 and it is a very light weapon," said 1st Lt. Branson Chandler, stationed at Aberdeen, Maryland. "I really like the weapon."

For the first two days of the competition, the participants familiarized themselves with and zeroed their weapons on ranges across the installation. On days three and four, M249 competitors endured stress shoots that included dragging simulated causalities and running through an assault course while engaging targets with the M249 light machine gun.

Day four also included the Excellence in Competition event, which was open to more than just the small arms competitors. Participants that shot in the top ten percent earned the EIC badge.

Meanwhile, days three and four for the M4 carbine and M17 pistol competitors required them to clear rooms in a shoot house. Targets in this competition included some with simulated hostages, and competitors had to shoot the correct targets without hitting simulated hostages.

When the smoke had cleared and all of the shots had been tallied, winners in the team competition, the individual categories and those who earned the EIC badge were recognized by the FORSCOM Command Sergeant Major, CSM Michael A. Grinston, for the skill they displayed over the four days.

The National Guard representatives placed as the overall best team, and included:

-Sgt. Max Archambault, a native of Westfield, New Jersey, and an infantryman assigned to the Vermont National Guard.

-Sgt. 1st Class Michael Bautista, a native of Lakewood, Washington, and a Cavalry scout assigned to the Idaho National Guard.

-Sgt. 1st Class Nikola Anacabe, a native of Boise, Idaho, and a Soldier assigned to the Idaho National Guard.

"It feels pretty validating to come here and win because we have to balance the civilian life and military life," said Archambault. "All of the training we did on our own time has paid off."

Bautista, the team captain, agreed with Archambault.

"It just feels great to come in here and prove that we can shoot just as well if not better than the Active force while staying as the underdog all week," he said.

In the individual weapon categories, the following Soldiers received the top honors in the competition:

M4 carbine:
-Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris, a native of Tucson, Arizona, who is a culinary specialist and U.S. Army Reserve Soldier stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas.

M17 pistol:
-1st Lt. Spencer Ellis, a native of Marion, Indiana, and an infantryman assigned to 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.

M249 light machine gun:
-Pfc. Dalton Hall, a native of New Castle, Pennsylvania, and an infantryman assigned to 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.

The following Soldiers earned the EIC badge during the competition for the following weapons:

M17 pistol:
-Sgt. Ryan Buell, a native of Lehi, Utah, and an infantryman assigned to 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

M4 carbine:
-Maj. Jacob Wilson, a native of Manhattan, Kansas, and a military police officer assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve in Elkhorn, Nebraska.

M17 pistol and M4 carbine:
-Staff Sgt. John Halley, a Pennsylvania native and a dental hygienist assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve.