By Maj. Jay Taylor (story and photos)October 26, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla.-It wasn't the Ok Corral and Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday weren't here but marksmen from the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade showcased their skills with the tools of the warrior trade during the brigade's new 'Gunfighter' competition.
Twenty one shooters took to the east ranges on Fort Sill September 7 and 8 to compete for honors as the finest marksman in the brigade. Competitors' represented each of the brigade's battalions and the headquarters and headquarters battery, some coming from as far away as Joint Base Lewis/McChord, Washington to compete in the three-day event.
The competition was designed to build esprit de corps within units and validate the marksmanship programs of units within the brigade. To compete, participants must have qualified expert with their assigned weapon, not be pending any adverse administrative action and not have a profile prohibiting participation any event.
"These events were designed to allow participants a chance to engage targets from more the prone-supported position" said Capt. Patrick Leen, assistant operations officer for the 31st Brigade. "We want this event to facilitate outside the box, realistic marksmanship training. If it becomes a recurring event, it will serve as an event for the battalions to work towards advanced rifle marksmanship and as an event to showcase their Soldier's abilities."
Events included M16 rifle zero and qualification, engaging targets with the M249 squad automatic weapon, two shoot and move events and a 150 meter walk and shoot event.
"It has been an emotional roller coaster for these guys," said Master Sgt. Robert W. Bedford, the event non-commissioned officer in charge. "There were seven events and the lead changed seven times. These guys showed up ready to be the top gunfighter in the brigade."
The event was well-received by competitors as they enjoyed the immediate feedback during the competition and the opportunity to compete against themselves and their buddies.
"Things started kind of slow for us but as we progressed the confidence goes up," said Sgt. Matthew J. Smarsh. "I wanted to do better but I really enjoyed the opportunity to train."
Smarsh, an Early Warning System Operator from A Battery, 5-5 ADA at Joint Base Lewis/McChord, Washington, did not know what to expect coming into the competition. He said he is looking forward to getting back to Lewis so he can train for next year's competition.
The competition brought together the brigade's best marksman and gave them the opportunity to share tactics, techniques and procedures that are working to train better shooters. "It gives us the chance to build on our junior leaders Warrior Ethos and their flexibility and adaptability," said Bedford.
"Shooting, moving and communicating; it is like blocking and tackling in football," said Col. Daniel R. Garcia, commander of the 31st Brigade. "The purpose of this competition is to identify the best warfighters and gunfighters in the brigade. I think we found them. Now these Troopers will go back to their units and train others to be as good as they are. I hope to see many more in next year's competition."
At the end of the week, there could only be one. After completing the final event of the competition on Friday, a six mile foot march with a 35 pound rucksack, the winner was Smarsh. He posted a 58 minute finish time on the march to take the top spot.
Rounding out the top finishers were Spc. Kenny, from 3-2 ADA, claiming second place and Pfc. Pudlo, also from 5-5 ADA at Joint Base Lewis/McChord, captured a third place finish.