The Great Plains Regional Training Center in Salina, Kansas, hosted the annual Adjutant General's Marksmanship Competition Aug. 9-11, 2019. Commonly referred to as the TAG Match, Kansas National Guard (KSNG) airmen and soldiers with the top scores received the coveted Governor's Twenty tab to wear on their uniform. While servicemembers vie for the Governor's Twenty tab, the TAG Match is a competition with a friendly atmosphere designed around improving and sustaining basic marksmanship skills, camaraderie, and esprit de corps.
Most states have marksmanship competitions modeled off the President's Hundred, but only 13 states award the Governor's Twenty tab to their top shots. The Governor's Twenty tab is worn on the upper-left sleeve of the uniform below honor guard or other individual tabs such as the President's Hundred, Special Forces, Sapper, and the Ranger tab. In Kansas, the top twenty percent competitors in the rifle and pistol categories are awarded the Governor's Twenty tab.
Airmen and soldiers of the KSNG had their skills tested with marksmanship events standard in the Army and the Air Force. The TAG Match consisted of eight individual shooting events, four from the Air Force and the Army, and two team events. The four Air Force events were the Elementary Rifle and Pistol Excellence-in-Competition and Combat Pistol and Rifle events. The Army's four events were Rapid Pistol and Rifle Close Quarter Battle, Combat Pistol Barricade, and Rifle Reflexive Fire.
The two team events did not count toward individual shooters' scores but were still competitive. For the rifle event, two teams started off in the prone position, when the air horn blew the two teams raced about 50 meters to the firing line. The two teams raced through muddy terrain to the firing line to be the first ones to knock down all six metal targets from 200 meters away. Similar to the rifle event, the team pistol event raced 25 meters over uneven terrain to the firing line, knocking over all their metal targets.
For overall in team events, first place went to the 184th Wing Team A, Kansas Air National Guard, with 6,443 points; second place went to the 35th Military Police Team A, Kansas Army National Guard (KSARNG), with 5,647 points; and third place went to the Medical Detachment Team A, KSARNG, with 5,632 points.
Of the more than 80 service members at this year's TAG Match, most competitors were participating in the event for the first time. Many first time competitors were junior enlisted members of the National Guard, such as Spc. Adriann Garbarino of Golf Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment (Ground Support Aviation Battalion), who said that she had just found out about the event.
"I learned a lot of new techniques and had a lot of fun," added Adriann's sister, Cadet Alexandra Garbarino, also from the GSAB.
While the Garbarino sisters and their team did not place in the competition, that fact did not seem to deter them from looking forward to future TAG Matches.
"It was a bit of a learning curve since this was our first time, but we will definitely be back next year," said Alexandra Garbarino.
Like most civilians, many citizen-soldiers do not practice shooting on off-duty hours so the TAG Match provided ample time for service members to strengthen their marksmanship skills.
"Most Soldiers and airmen in the National Guard only get to go to the range once a year," said Col. Matt Oleen, Deputy Chief-of-Staff ,of the KSARNG. "But in one weekend, you can shoot more than you'll ever get to shoot, all while getting paid. What a lot of people don't understand is that marksmanship is a perishable skill.You either use it or lose it."
"This is some of the most fun you can have at a military range," said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, adjutant general of the KSNG. "Regardless of what unit you are in, if you're a soldier or airmen, the National Guard demands a lot of you because of the requirements for us at the local, state, and national level. So one of the most important things we must be able to do is be proficient and accurate in the use of weapons."
The KSNG leadership hopes more service members, like the Garabino sisters, will sign up for the 2020 TAG Match to see what it is like and leave with the realization that they must practice and maintain their marksmanship skills to stay proficient.
Of the top twenty percent of competitors to earn the Governor's Twenty tab, a total of sixteen service members were tabbed. Out of the sixteen to earn the tab, eleven received the Governor's Twenty tab in years prior. The five new members of the KSNG who earned the Governor's Twenty tab were:
Capt. David Vasquez - Army's Golf Co., 1st Bn., 111st Avn. Regt. (GSAB)
Master Sgt. Joshua Manning - Air Force's 184th Wing
1st Lt. Timothy Wang - Army's 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 137st Infantry Regiment
Tech. Sgt. Evan Dodds - Air Force's 184th Wing
Master Sgt. David Salinas - Air Force's 190th Air Refueling Wing