LATHAM, N.Y. - Four New York National Guard Soldiers and one Airman will represent New York and the United States at the South African National Defence Force Military Skills Competition Oct. 23-30.
The international event involves an obstacle course, a swimming obstacle course, an 8-kilometer run, grenade throwing, a range estimation contest and rifle and pistol shooting with standard South African weapons.
The event was last held in 2019 and canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019 the New York National Guard sent five Soldiers and five Airmen to participate as part of a State Partnership Program relationship with the South African National Defence Force.
This year, because the invitation arrived in late August, New York is sending only five people, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Maynard, the team coach. Maynard also headed the New York team in 2019.
Military personnel from around the world are invited to the competition each year.
The New York National Guard and the South African military have been partners since 2003 in the State Partnership Program, which builds military-to-military relationships and interoperability.
While the New York National Guard regularly conducts exchange events with South African military leaders, Soldier-to-Soldier interactions like the military skills event are the real core of the program, said Maj. David Myones, the New York National Guard’s State Partnership Program director.
“It fosters the spirit of cooperation at the Soldier level,” Myones said.
Another reason to be represented: Brazil, also partnered with New York in the SPP, is participating in this year’s South African military skills event, Myones said.
Because of the relatively short notice, the New York National Guard team has not been able to train collectively, Maynard said. The members have been working out on their own and will get a few days on the ground at the contest location of Potchefstroom, South Africa, to practice.
Foreign competitors must use the South African R4 rifle and Z88 pistol in the rifle and pistol shooting events. The Z88 is similar to the M9 Beretta pistol Americans use, so that is an advantage, Maynard said.
“Everybody is stoked. It is a good time,” Maynard said. “The South Africans are a great host nation and very welcoming. They always put together a well-organized event.”
The New York National Guard members participating this year are:
• Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Maynard, the command sergeant major of the 53rd Troop Command.
• Army Capt. Jacob Gazaway, assigned to the Headquarters Detachment of the 501st Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal).
• Army 1st Lt. Jimmy Tran, who serves in the 101st Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
• Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Guckian, with the New York National Guard’s Camp Smith Training Site.
• Air Force Master Sgt. Brandon Gilbert, who serves in the 107th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard.