ROBINSON MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ark. --
It’s like a scene out of an old spaghetti western movie. Standing on a line, hand hovering over a holster and twitching with anticipation. A voice comes over a loud speaker, “watch and shoot.” You inhale a deep breath and slowly exhale and count down from five to one before firing.
FIVE days of tactical maneuvers in a combat simulated environment.
FOUR man teams, each representing their home states.
THREE weapons: M4, M9 and shotgun.
TWO objectives: test one’s marksmanship skills and earn bragging rights for your state by taking home national team awards.
ONE massive pile of shell casings.
Again the command, louder than the first, “WATCH and SHOOT.” Your heart and adrenaline is pumping…FIRE!
In April, 81 teams of National Guard members, representing 42 states and territories, descended on Robinson Maneuver Training Center in Arkansas to compete in the 47th Annual Winston P. Wilson Championship (WPW). Also in attendance were over 60 international shooters from Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
WPW is the largest United States military marksmanship competition. This was not a mere competition, it was a well-executed, combat simulated field training. Each four-man team was evaluated on field firing, advanced marksmanship and target engagement. All of the matches were designed to focus on the fundamentals of marksmanship while implementing the stress and physical activity of combat between service members.
The Washington National Guard sent a team of four Airmen to the competition. Master Sgt. Christopher Martin, 242nd Combat Communications Squadron first sergeant and team captain, has a security forces background and ten years of competitive shooting experience. Maj. Eric Manewal, 194th Wing, was a returning veteran shooter with a special operations background. Master Sgt. Michael Chapman, 194th Security Forces Squadron, was a fist time WPW competitor and is a qualified CATM instructor. Staff Sgt. Caleb Gutting, 141st Security Forces Squadron, was also a first time WPW competitor but has eight years of competitive shooting experience.
General Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, made an unexpected detour from his busy schedule to attend the opening ceremonies and show his support. He had the honor of firing the first shot signifying the start of the competition with the recently recovered service pistol issued to Maj. Gen. Winston P. Wilson, the former chief of the National Guard Bureau.
Over a five day period, the teams were mentally and physically challenged. Each scenario applied different shooting tactics. While dressed in full battle rattle, shooters ran from point to point and engaged targets, sometimes from unfamiliar positions. Teamwork was essential to achieve the highest possible aggregate score for national ranking.
The Washington National Guard might not have taken first place, but the knowledge learned and community built was invaluable. It’s those experiences, and that community that will lead the Washington National Guard into a new era of training opportunities.
The State Marksmanship Coordinator, Army National Guard, is currently working on a Joint Standard Operating Procedure that will revive the State Marksmanship Training Program. Washington Army and Air National Guard units will be empowered to stand up this unit level specialized marksmanship program under state guidance. With a renewed focus on training, appointed Soldiers and Airmen will be developed into subject matter experts and sent back to their units as instructors.