New York Soldiers Compete for Best Machine Gun crew competition
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army Sergeants 1st Class Michael Trask and Robert Lamorte II, assigned to the New York Army National Guard’s 42nd Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, display the New York State flag during the Army Guard’s week-long Winston P. Wilson machine gun competition at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, May 16-20. The two decided to compete at the last minute, representing the state with just hours to go in the enrollment deadline. Courtesy photo. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL
New York Soldiers Compete for Best Machine Gun crew competition
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army National Guard machine gun crews compete in the Army Guard’s week-long Winston P. Wilson machine gun competition at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, May 16-20. Eleven teams competed across the Army National Guard. Courtesy photo. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

New York Army National Guard Sergeants 1st Class Robert Lamorte II and Michael Trask were on day three of the Army Guard’s week-long Winston P. Wilson machine gun competition when they decided their M145 machine gun optic was just, simply, broke.

The $1,372 sight they’d borrowed from Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, to go with the M240B machinegun they’d also borrowed from the 107th Military Police Company, just would not zero to the weapon. Even with the help of a laser bore sighter from Walmart.

The two senior NCOs from the operations section of the 42nd Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade decided they were better off shooting the old-fashioned way: “iron sights” and no nifty optics.

It was just one more challenge for an ad hoc machine gun team that volunteered—with literally two hours to spare before the registration deadline—to ensure New York was represented at the annual machine gun competition at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, May 16-20.

Held in conjunction with the better-known Winston P. Wilson Small Arms Championship, the machine gun competition is open to two-Soldier teams from across the Army National Guard.

The teams via to be the best M240B medium machine gun marksmen. Each Soldier also shoots their personal weapons, an M-17 pistol for the gunner and M-4 rifle for the assistant gunner.

They had some good days on the range, Trask and Lamorte said – getting a team first and an individual second place – but the two New Yorkers finished sixth in a field of 11 teams.

Still, that wasn’t a bad showing for two senior non-commissioned officers who hadn’t trained on a machine gun in years, said New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski.

“With very little recent practice on the machine gun but a lot of desire, they competed superbly with teams that had been spending months training,” Piwowarski said.

“Like the minutemen, they put down whatever they were doing, picked up a machine gun and went off to the competition,” he added.

Their first hurdle was finding a machine gun and a spare, and two extra barrels and the optics and a tripod.

“I never thought it would be so hard to find a machine gun in New York State,” Trask said jokingly.

But with units mobilizing to go to Kuwait and the Horn of Africa, extra machine guns were scarce.

They worked the phones and found the weapons they need.

The next challenge was shipping the gear.

“That was also another learning experience,” Lamorte recalled.

The weapons all had to be shipped in a locked case. They had a big Pelican case, so they decided to put their helmets, tactical vests and eye protection other gear in with the weapons.

That seemed like a good idea, but then it turned that airline regulations limited them to 100 pounds for the case.

“We started pulling stuff out and stuffing it in our personal bags,” Lamorte recalled. “I was stuffing his stuff in my bag and my stuff in his bag.”

“We got it down to 104 [pounds], and Sergeant Trask is like, “I can’t carry any more.’ And the guy gave us a break,” Lamorte said.

The weapons also had to be inspected by the Albany County Sheriff airport detail before being shipped. That provided some humor, the two men said, because the deputies thought they were looking at Airsoft replica guns, he said.

“They went, ‘That’s a cute Airsoft gun.’ And I said, ‘That is not an Airsoft gun.’ I said, ‘That is a machine gun.’”

“‘And they said, ‘Like, a real machine gun?’ Then Sgt. 1st Class Lamorte said, ‘Like a real machine gun and it shoots real bullets,” Trask said.

“Then the guy said, ‘Okay, don’t take it out,’” he added.

The five-day competition made the hassles of getting there worthwhile, the two said.

While each of the 11 teams was trying to win, they were also willing to help each other, they said.

For example, the team from Utah’s 19th Special Forces Group worked to help fix their M145 optic before they gave up on it, Trask said.

The 17 engagements were challenging, the two said.

“In the Army, for conventional forces, we teach just hit the target. We teach one accurate shot. We don’t teach anything about follow on shots,” Lamorte said.

“But this was more than just hitting. It was precision,” Trask said. “Instead of just trying to hit the target, you were trying to get the most points.”

In the “blind shoot” event, Lamorte and Trask had eight minutes and 150 rounds of ammunition to record range card data —elevation and direction— to targets at 200, 300 and 400 meters.

Then a curtain —the blind— was placed in front of Trask and he had 50 rounds to engage the target locations without looking at them. He had to use the traversing and elevating mechanism on the machinegun accurately.

The New Yorkers scored 128 out of 320 points and finished 5th in that event.

In the “ten-meter match” event, Lamorte and Trask, had to run with the machine gun and tripod for one mile. Then they conducted engagements with the machine gun on a tripod, and then using the two-legged bipod at targets 10 meters away.

All this had to be done within 23 minutes. They got 242 out of 600 points, finishing in sixth place.

Trask and Lamorte did score first place in the falling plates event.

The task required them to run 100 meters to the 300-meter range line carrying all their gear. They then had to hit eight metal plate targets and knock them over.

Scoring was based on the number of targets hit, the time it took to run and engage the targets, and who had the most ammunition left out of 100 rounds provided.

Trask and Lamorte hit the eight plates in 1:17 second and finished with 62 rounds of 7.62-millimeter ammunition left.

They didn’t fire at night, but the days were long, they recalled.

“It was close to 12 hours some days,” Lamorte said.

Tossing away the optics made things tougher, the two recalled.

In one engagement at over 1,000 meters Trask couldn’t see the targets he was shooting at and counted on Lamorte to guide him in using binoculars.

The young Soldiers who had been trained as machine gunners were amazed to see them shooting without optics, Lamorte said.

“The young guys looked at us and said, ‘How does that even work?’” Lamorte remembered.

Despite the challenges, participating in the competition, and learning techniques to share with other Soldiers made the event worthwhile, the two said.

“The marksmanship community is a great community of people. The people that go out and shoot are competitive, but you never find people who are overcompetitive,” Lamorte said.

“Everybody was out there to help each other, and everybody was out there to push each other along,” he added.