FORT DEVENS, Mass. – The New Hampshire National Guard held its annual combat marksmanship match July 8–11 at Fort Devens.
Soldiers and Airmen competed in team and individual small-arms events, undaunted by torrential rain that belted the region as Tropical Storm Elsa passed through.
"This is what it's about," said Maj. Gen. David Mikolaities, New Hampshire adjutant general and one of 75 shooters. "It's a warrior ethos."
Informally known as the adjutant general's match, it promotes marksmanship proficiency and lets Guard members test weapons skills in a battle-focused environment.
They fired standard-issue M16 rifles or M4 carbines at ranges up to 500 yards. Matches also featured Beretta M9 or SIG M17 pistols at distances up to 30 yards.
Combat gear, including Kevlar helmets and load-bearing vests, were required. Courses of fire varied. Some required running, multiple shooting positions and quick reloads to engage targets for score.
"The biggest part of this match is for Soldiers to build confidence in themselves and their equipment and their ability to engage targets at various distances under stressful conditions," said Maj. Brooks Hayward, match director.
Organizers added a surprise mystery event, which entailed a unique array of weaponry. Competitors peppered targets with Vietnam-era M14s, toppled bowling pins with M26 shotguns and hurled axes at wooden bull's-eyes.
Fourteen teams from units across the state blazed through thousands of rounds while vying for top-squad honors.
Once barrels cooled, The Other Guys proved victorious. The all-military police team included Capt. Patrick Randall of the 941st MP Battalion, Staff Sgt. Nathan Huntley, Sgt. Cameron Douglas and Sgt. Matthew Proulx of the 237th MP Company.
Individual honors went to Randall, who finished as overall champion (open category), and Sgt. Austin Rosende of 3rd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment, top novice.
The state's newest top gun says there's nothing quite like going head-to-head against the best.
"When you're training on the range, it's a great way to diagnose deficiencies and find improvements that you need to make," Randall said. "But competition is the best way to increase your skill set compared to other shooters, so it's by competing you'll become a better shooter."
Randall suggested future competitors try visualization in addition to practicing sound fundamentals.
"Learn those courses of fire and study them so you don't have to focus on listening to the instructions when you're on the range," Randall said. "Shoot the course of fire in your head 70 times before you actually shoot it, just like an athlete does."
A lot of work behind the scenes made this year's match a success. Hayward, Sgt. 1st Class David Musso, Staff Sgt. Wayne Comtois and Staff Sgt. Joseph Wyner headed a crew of about 30 Soldiers who organized events, set up targets, issued ammunition, tabulated scores and ensured range safety.