Story and photos by Spc. Hector Corea, 366th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
HUTCHINSON, Kan – The 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command held a Marksmanship Proficiency Training Exercise in Hutchinson, Kan., Nov. 12 to 16, 2012.
The marksmanship event was a training initiative that gathered nearly 89 competitors, 15 units and 100 personnel from various units belonging to the 451st ESC.
“Marksmanship is the single most important soldier skill,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Baer, assistant operations officer for the 451st ESC. “My goal is to improve the marksmanship proficiencies of every soldier that attends this event.”
The 451st received instruction from the U.S. Army Reserve Marksmanship Unit, who helped supervise the event to lend their expertise and teach Soldiers shooting fundamentals.
“We’re attempting to give proficient instruction to these soldiers and retain them in the military for their benefit,” said Capt. Samuel K. Freeman, a service rifle shooter with the USAR marksmanship team and Hendersonville, N.C., native.
Before beginning the competition, the team gave all participating soldiers classes on proper firing techniques and procedures.
“I’ve learned a lot from the [USAR team] classes,” said Spc. Kevin Wendt, Leavenworth, Kan., native attached to the 129th Transportation Company. “I’m feeling pretty confident.”
These classes were fundamental in helping improve the participating soldiers’ shooting proficiencies and skills, said Freeman.
“This training was really eye opening,” said Spc. Kristina L. Shirley, a paralegal specialist with the 89th Sustainment Brigade. “I was able to learn so much about the factors that affect shooting.”
After the classes, the competitors were given the opportunity to practice zeroing weapons in a qualification round before beginning the competition matches.
“More trigger time means better shooting,” said Staff Sgt. Jose R. Garcia, noncommissioned officer in charge of training with the 387th Human Resource Co. “It’s a great chance for Soldiers to become accustomed to competitive marksmanship events.”
The MPTX consisted of an Expert in Competition, or EIC, individual combat rifle match, an EIC individual pistol match and a team rifle competition match.
The matches were extremely competitive, bringing in some of the best shooters from each participating unit, said Baer.
“This is a lot of fun,” said Sgt. John R. Bonjour, a Kansas City, Mo., native and wheeled-vehicle mechanic with the 842nd Quartermaster Company. “And there’s always a competitive aspect that brings out the best in you.”
After firing thousands of rounds, adding up hundreds of points and comparing the various scores, the competition ended with an awards ceremony.
Staff Sgt. Robert M. Szkutnik, a training noncommissioned officer for the 89th Sustainment Brigade, placed first in the both the EIC individual rifle and EIC pistol competitions.
“It feels good,” said Szkutnik. “This has been a white rabbit I’ve been chasing for 11 years since I saw the EIC badges in Basic Combat Training.”
The rifle team competition victors were the “Sandhillers,” from both the 1013th Quartermaster Co. and 295th Quartermaster Co., who narrowly overcame the second placed “War Eagles” from the 89th Sustainment Brigade.
Sgt. Clayton R. Manning, a wheeled-vehicle mechanic attached to the 1013th Quartermaster Co., and Downing, Neb., native, contributed the “Sandhillers” success to consistent shooting and enjoyed the opportunity to compete against fellow 451st ESC Soldiers.
The winners and runner-ups will have the opportunity to try out for the USAR Marksmanship Unit in the future.
Spc. Sean M. McDaniel, a truck driver attached with the 369th Trans. Co. and Hutchinson, Kan., native, who placed second in both the EIC individual pistol and EIC rifle competitions, looks forward to earning a spot on the team.
“I feel honored and excited,” said McDaniel. “I’ve been wanting to do this all my life.”
While the competitors spent a great amount of ammo, time and energy over the multi-day event, they gained something much more valuable–experience.
“The biggest takeaway was that this was a training event,” said Szkutnik. “This instruction will go back to the units to help better their shooting proficiencies.”
Looking forward, the 451st ESC plans to hold similar events in the future.
“This wasn’t just a competition, it was about training,” said Baer. “Everybody here had the opportunity to learn something new they can take with them downrange.”