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Colorado National Guard members take aim at annual state marksmanship match

Weapons proficiency is a core tenet of military service. Approximately 82 Colorado National Guard Soldiers and Airmen gathered to prove their skills in the seventh annual Adjutant General’s Marksmanship Match held throughout a sun-splashed summer weekend at Fort Carson, Colorado, July 31- Aug. 2, 2020.

The top 20 best shooters earned the coveted Governor’s Twenty tab, but the match is about more than just bragging rights.

“This event helps you as a leader to progress and grow and makes you a more effective shooter,” U.S Army Sgt. Andrew Towns, team leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, Colorado Army National Guard said. “It also helps you instruct, train and educate to develop everybody else up to higher standards.”

The competition focused on individual service weapons. During the three-day event, shooters engaged targets at various ranges with the M4 or M16 carbine and M9 or M17 pistol. The events included reflexive fire, anti-body armor shooting, and a grueling “9-minute match” wherein competitors sprint to collect ammunition pre-staged 25 yards behind the firing line then head back to their shooting positions, firing 20 rounds – one round at a time.

“It’s a little intense,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Roberta Hovey, the readiness Non-commissioned Officer for the 168th Regional Training Institute of Excellence. “I would encourage others to come out and participate. You get a lot of coaching out here, and it’s a lot of fun.”

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Robert Henry, 928th Area Support Medical Company first sergeant, said the competition is good exposure for service members to fire their weapons away from the flat qualification ranges they may be used to.

“Shooting from different positions, firing from 400 yards and getting up and down to quickly put rounds down range while your heart rate is up is great training,” Henry, a veteran of multiple deployments, said. “Without getting shot at, it’s the closest thing we can simulate to combat shooting.”

Henry also noted that the event falls in line with Colorado Army National Guard Commander U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Doug Paul’s initiative for all COARNG Soldiers to attain a level of marksmanship above basic requirements to increase battlefield survivability across the force.

“Every Soldier is a rifleman,” Henry said. “I remind my medics that we were trained to be Soldiers before we were trained to be medics. Fire superiority is the best medicine that we can provide. The more we can shoot, the better.”

The CONG Marksmanship Match is open to all members of the Colorado Guard – Army and Air – regardless of skill level or weapons familiarity.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alexander Lanning, an aircraft electrician with the 140th Maintenance Group, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard said his trigger time in the military has been limited, but he wanted to participate and grow his abilities.   

“It sounded like a good time,” Lanning said. “I’ve shot a little bit, personally, but I wanted to practice my marksmanship skills and get better. There has been a lot of good training down here, and hey, the ammo is free.”

Competitors who fared well at the state Marksmanship Match can compete in follow-on regional and national competitions.  Their units also recognize them as subject matter experts.