Camp Robinson, Ark. --
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (May 11, 2023) – Eight Vermont National Guardsmen spent two weeks at Camp Robinson competing against the best military marksmen from across the world during a competition hosted by the Army National Guard from April 24 to May 7.
The 52nd Winston P. Wilson and the 32nd Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting saw competitors from more than states and territories, plus the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and is the biggest marksmanship competition put on by the U.S. Army.
The competition saw the Green Mountain Boys – seven from the 158th Fighter Wing and one from the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team – participate in 14 shooting events, firing more than 600 rounds per person.
Points are earned individually and as a team, leading to awards for the top shooters in each event. Points also go towards the career total for each competitor which earns them the Distinguished Marksman Badge.
“This is a small arms marksmanship event open to the military, primarily consisting of teams from the National Guard,” said Tech. Sgt. Galen Topper from the 158th Maintenance Group.
The competition has competitors engage targets with their service rifle and pistol. For the Vermont team, this meant the M4 carbine and M9 pistol.
Along with National Guard and European teams, the Army Reserve, Marine Corps and Coast Guard also sent teams.
“A few years ago I displayed interest in marksmanship and was able to join the 158th Fighter Wing marksmanship training unit, and from there I was able to compete in state level competitions,” Topper said.
Topper explained that through performance in local and regional events is what gets members selected to compete at the national and international level.
“Everyone is doing very well this year,” Topper said.
He continued by explaining that the Vermont shooters were broken down into two teams of four. A primary “Alpha” team that focused on competition and a second “Bravo” team which focused on training and development.
“This competition focuses on rifle and pistol small arms accuracy,” Topper said. “Each day we have several different matches and those consist of many different stages of fire with many different time limitations for engagement and different ranges.”
Typically, U.S. service members will qualify on their M4 carbine by shooting at targets up to 300 yards away. For this competition, the competitors shot at targets more than twice that distance.
With shooting during the day and night through high temperatures, Topper equated it to an endurance event.
“Personally, there’s always room for improvement,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Poirier from the 158th Maintenance Group, who won first place in the pistol barricade event and earned the Distinguished Marksman Badge.
Poirier explained that there is always experience and skills to be gained from bringing eager Airmen out to these training and competition events.
“I’m super excited about how our Vermont team did,” Poirier continued. “This was a big thing for the Vermont National Guard and I’m pretty excited and pretty proud that not only were we able to get participation, but we did an awesome job.”
Vermont placed 4th in the overall state championship out of 41 teams, 5th in team pistol aggregate out of 57 teams and 15th team rifle aggregate out of 75 teams.
“There is a decent amount of prep and most of it comes down to the individual,” Poirier said. “More often than not, people who come down here to shoot also like to do it on their own time.”
He explained that many competitors will often invest their own time and money into equipment and shooting practice, and get experience outside of the military. They do this, he said, because of their love and enjoyment of marksmanship.
Competing for Vermont along with Poirier and Topper was Tech. Sgt. Corey Hedman, Senior Airman Caitlyn Fitzgerald, Master Sgt. Derik Mumley, Master Sgt. Robert Marciniak and Senior Airman Ben Winiecke, all from the 158th Fighter Wing, and Sgt. 1st Class Max Archambault from the 86th Infantry Brigade.
“I’ve been trying to come here since 2015,” Poirier said. “It’s awesome to be able to come here, represent the Vermont National Guard.”
“All of our team members exceeded expectations, and their stamina and focus has been very good this year,” Topper said.