CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo - KFOR Soldiers from Multinational Battle Group East (MNBG E) recently competed for the title of "best of the best" during a Commander's Cup shooting competition held here May 29-30.

Soldiers from the U.S., Ukraine, Poland, Greece and Armenia got the chance to prove their marksmanship skills on small arms weapon systems of different nations.

The Commander's Cup competition was created for members of MNBG E to work with other multinational military forces while developing knowledge of the different military side arms and assault rifles. The competition also helps build partnerships and relationships with other nations within the Battle Group.

Maj. Shayne Simon, Alexandria, Minn., was the officer-in-charge of the range and Staff Sgt. Russel Roth, Bismarck, N.D., was the range safety officer. Simon and Roth, both members of the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, conducted and controlled range operations while collecting each team's score.

"This event builds relationships through competition and also with each nation acting as coaches when their countries' weapons were being fired by other Soldiers from the battle group," Simon said.

The two-day competition began on Saturday morning with enthusiastic Soldiers eager to start firing. Twelve four-person teams rotated through the range to fire each of the other countries' weapons, firing both the pistol and the rifle.

The U.S. was represented by seven teams. North Dakota Soldiers from Bravo Company, MNBG E, made up Bravo Co. Team 1 and Bravo Co. Team 2. Members of North Dakota's 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) formed team Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC). Members of aviation battalions from South Carolina and Kentucky made up the aviation team. Medical personnel from Georgia's 1207th U.S. Army Hospital made up the medical team. Team EOD was made up of members of the 753rd Ordnance Co., Explosive Ordinance Disposal, from West Virginia. Soldiers from the Liaison and Monitoring team, 957th Multi-Role Bridge Co., N.D., made up team LMT.

Multinational Soldiers spent the better part of the morning shooting the U.S. M9 pistol and the U.S. M16A2 rifle, while members of Bravo Co. Team 1 and MNBG E aviation coached the other countries and assisted them while firing.

"This has been a very good experience - learning to use other weapons and working with the other nations and showing them our weapons and basic marksmanship," said Staff Sgt. Jake Bollinger, Valley City, N.D., the team captain for Bravo Co. Team 1. "Coaching the other nations was like teaching a private who had never handled a weapon before, but they picked it up very quickly."

Once the range was cleared of the American weapons, the Polish weapons were the next in line. The WIST-94, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and the Beryl Model 96 KBS, 5.56 caliber, automatic rifle were fired until early afternoon. The remainder of the day was spent firing the Ukraine PM (Pistolet Makarova), a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and their AK (Kalashnikov) 74, a 5.45mm assault rifle.

Sunday morning, the range opened with the Greek Soldiers' weapons being fired. The M1911, a single-action, semi-automatic .45 handgun was fired first - a weapon that was the standard-issue side arm for U.S. armed forces from 1911 to 1985.

The M1911 was followed by the G3A3, a 7.62mm battle rifle of German design, developed in the 1950s. U.S. Soldiers expressed how this large caliber rifle was much easier to fire than expected.

"I really liked the overall handling and simplicity of this weapon," Master Sgt. Dean Richter, a HHC team member said. "It had a natural feeling when you aimed it."

"You definitely know you are shooting a larger caliber by the sound, but there was still hardly any recoil," Sgt. Kenneth Schaub, another member of the HHC team said.

Each weapon system had a different point scoring system. The pistol shooting gave an opportunity of achieving a possible 50 points, whereas the rifle shooting had an opportunity of achieving a possible 32 points. Each Soldier could receive a total of 246 points, with a maximum team total of 984.

"The more skilled shooters were going to benefit from this scoring system," Simon said.

The U.S. aviation team took first place with a team total of 838 points; Bravo Co. Team 2, took second place with 773 points; and the Polish team, close behind with 767 points, finished in third place.

"The weekend was really fun and I really learned a lot," said Sgt. Jeremy Lowe, Frankfurt, Ky., a member of the aviation team that took first place. "It was interesting to see other countries methods of marksmanship and spend time with them. We got to know the other Soldiers and were able to teach them our weapons systems."

"The competition part is nice - you try to do your best but sometimes your best just isn't good enough," said Staff Sgt. Kelly Mathisen, Fargo, N.D., team captain of Bravo Co. Team 2. "It was interesting to see that other countries have such well qualified people and can shoot pretty well."

"It was pretty fun shooting their different types of weapons and the different calibers," Mathisen added. "After receiving coaching from the other nations, our U.S. weapons seem simple and easy to make adjustments. We have tools for adjusting windage and elevation; theirs are more complex and harder to adjust. This makes us appreciate the weapons we have in the U.S. - they are a lot easier to use."

Capt. William Abbott, team captain for team HHC, Palmer, Alaska, scored a total of 244 points, missing only two possible points during the competition, which were on the Greek pistol. During the Commander's Cup final ceremony, Abbott received a certificate of excellence from Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, MNBG E commanding general, for superior performance during the range competition, and also a command team coin.

"The U.S. Soldiers shot extremely well, as did our multinational companies on the U.S. weapons," Simon said

"This was an excellent weekend and I wish it could have been done sooner," said Sgt. Nigel Badal, U.S. medical team, Pasco, Fla. "This built great camaraderie for the Soldiers on Camp Bondsteel. This was a great team-building weekend."

"I felt that this was more of a weapons familiarization since the weapons are not standardized. But, all in all, this was a great team-building weekend," he continued.

"The weekend went very well bringing everyone together. It was more like a weapons familiarization [range], but still a competition. I had a lot of fun," Bollinger said.

"I thought this was a fun and exciting weekend. I got to shoot other countries' weapons and also got to learn the different functions on them," said Cpl. Daniel Wieland, Spiritwood, N.D., a member of Bravo Co. Team 1. "It sure isn't an M16, though. It doesn't have the craftsmanship of an American weapon."

"This was such a good experience," Richter said. "It gave us a great idea of what our multinational Soldiers have for weapons and what their shooting skills are. It really made me appreciate the weapons that the U.S. Soldiers have."