FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Four U.S. Army Reserve marksmen were among the 48 competing at U.S. Army Forces Command’s (FORSCOM) second annual marksmanship competition, Nov. 8-10, 2016.
Master Sgt. Robert Mango, with the 9th Mission Support Command; Sgt. 1st Class Joel Micholick, with the 9th Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division; Sgt. Joseph Hall, with the 310th Psychological Operations Company (Airborne), and Staff Sgt. Thomas Walsh, with 744th Engineer Company, 321st Engineer Battalion, 416th Theater Engineer Command, represented the U.S. Army Reserve in the competition.
Mango and Hall finished second in the Expert category using the M9 pistol and M4 rifle, respectively, while Micholick and Walsh, finished second and third, respectively, in the M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW) and M9 Novice categories. Mango, Micholick, and Hall are all members of the U.S. Army Reserve Combat Marksmanship Program while Walsh is hoping to make the team.
In addition to the U.S. Army Reserve marksmen, the four-day FORSCOM competition also featured marksmen from the active Army and the Army National Guard in events for the M9, M4, and M249, to recognize Soldiers who are beyond expert marksmen. The multi-tiered events challenged the competitors’ ability to accurately and quickly engage targets in a variety of conditions and environments.
Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Schroeder, the FORSCOM command sergeant major, said that while this is a competition to see who is the best in the Army, ultimately this event will hopefully inspire individuals, and thereby their units, to become better with this basic Soldier skill – the ability to shoot and engage targets with lethal force.
“There is nothing more fundamental than being able to engage and destroy our enemies on the battlefield,” Schroeder said. “We do that with our weapons systems and it’s important to build these competencies in our leaders.”
Schroeder said this competition is different from others in that this event tests combat marksmanship – the ability to adapt and overcome a particular situation while still putting lethal rounds downrange.
“We want to test combat marksmanship,” he said. “We want to get troopers operating in the same conditions that they would be operating in combat.
“Competitions drive the way we train. So we want to take these Soldiers and have them go back to their unit leadership and tell them what they did here and we want them to drive their training to get better at these competitions, which will make us better in combat. That’s really what this is all about; improving individual and unit proficiency and that will help us in the future.”
All four U.S. Army Reserve marksmen fully understand the importance of individual and unit readiness. All four served in the active Army before moving into the U.S. Army Reserve and Mango, Micholick, and Hall all previously served in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit based at Fort Benning, Georgia. They all said there was a good combination of traditional and combat marksmanship events to challenge their skills and abilities.
“(This competition) is trying to introduce marksmanship down at a unit level,” Mango said. “So it can’t flood the newer shooters with all brand new things that’s going to be foreign to them. So a lot of it was what you would expect a Soldier to have – from the holster and running to find cover – the things that the Army teaches you. But it just wasn’t black on white (paper target) bulls-eye type shooting. It really sped up (the competition) and that’s a good thing.”
Hall said he enjoyed the competition, especially all of the more unique events.
“The competition was great with all the different scenarios – the stress shoots, the alleyways, everything,” Hall said. “It challenged us in every different style of shooting – stuff that you would see in combat to actual marksmanship. There were just so many different aspects of it; it was just a great time.”
Hall said the biggest take-away for him was to share what he learned when he returns to his unit to included shooting under pressure and time constraints.
“All the different scenarios – you can run through those with any Soldier out there,” Hall said. He added that this competition was more about the combat shooting than precision shooting.
“This teaches you a quick response in how to take your target down,” he said.
For Walsh, a former infantry Soldier and drill sergeant on active duty, now a U.S. Army Reserve combat engineer, said competitive shooting has made him a better Soldier and he is able to share those experiences with his fellow Soldiers.
“It’s nice for me as a prior 11-Bravo (infantry) to go into these units and say, ‘Hey, let’s take a step back and get back to the basics and become shooters again.”
Soldiers need range time in order to become individually better which benefits the entire unit, Walsh said.
“Each Soldier needs to be good on all the weapon systems not just their assigned weapon,” he said. “My lowest private should be able to shoot a pistol and all the squad guns plus his M4 (rifle).”
The four-day FORSCOM competition features marksmen from the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and the National Guard in events for the M9 pistol, the M4A1 rifle and the M249 SAW, or Squad Automatic Weapon, to recognize Soldiers who are beyond expert marksmen. The multi-tiered events challenge the competitors’ ability to accurately and quickly engage targets in a variety of conditions and environments.