Arizona Guard shooting match provides battle focused training

Arizona Guard shooting match provides battle focused training

Arizona Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Stephen Wright, a power support systems mechanic with the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix, fires his M4 carbine on the zeroing range during the Arizona National Guard's 2015 Adjutant General’s Match Feb. 13, at Florence Military Reservation in Florence, Ariz. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)

FLORENCE, Ariz. - Lying prone, elbows pressed into the dirt, Arizona National Guard members aim at targets 400 meters away through optical scopes mounted on their rifles.


A strong wind blows across the Sonoran desert as trigger squeezes send brass-jacketed rounds spiraling forward at supersonic speed.


Gunfire echoes through the air as empty shell casings somersault out of the rifle and onto the ground. After 50 seconds, the command to ceasefire is given by the range safety, weapons are placed on safe, and the shooters rise to their feet.


With the first of four stages in the infantry trophy match complete, Guard members wait for the order to move to the 300 meter line as they compete in the 2015 Arizona National Guard’s Adjutant General’s Match Feb. 13 at the Florence Military Reservation shooting range in Florence, Arizona.


“What makes this event important is these Guardsmen here are getting advanced training in the individual weapons that a Soldier or Airmen carries,” said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas McKendry, noncommissioned officer in charge of the match.


The shooting competition, an annual event previously known as All Weapons Weekend, is designed to give participants the opportunity to experience battle-focused training and gain advanced skills that can be applied in real-world situations.


“They can take this information back to their units and become unit marksmanship coordinators and increase the overall level of marksmanship in their unit from what they learn here,” said McKendry.


The four-day shooting match included service members from the Arizona Guard and Reserve, Arizona State University ROTC, and active Army Soldiers from Colorado. The competitors, who came to the match with different level of experience, competed against each other on eight different shooting stages. The stages are designed to test a shooter's skills in different shooting situations using the M9 pistol, the M249 light machine gun, and the M16/M4 rifles.


The shooting competition drew in 119 individual competitors and 25 four-member teams.


“Each team is representing their unit competing to be the best,” said McKendry. “It stresses ‘shoot, move, and communicate.’ The basic soldiering skills that are important to all Service members. The match builds better communication and team work of the individual competitors.”


For newcomers like Army Pfc. Jerome Tipton, a computer electronics repairer with Alpha Company, 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion in Casa Grande, it was an enjoyable learning experience.


“I’ve had a lot of fun,” said Tipton. “I got to go out and shoot in several events we don’t do on a regular basis and use different weapons systems we might not get to use when we come out to qualify.”


The competition was also a first for Air Force Staff Sgt. Aindrea Tait, an aircraft structural mechanic from the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix. For Tait, whose last weapons qualification at the range was four years ago, the match was a valuable learning opportunity.


“I enjoy the fact that I’m learning the fundamentals and different aspects of moving and shooting,” said Tait. “The competition was a lot more situational than just aiming at a target.”


Of the 25 teams competing, the Arizona Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion were the overall team winners scoring 3,247 combined points out of a possible 5,264. The top individual winner was Master Sgt. Scott Erickson of the 161st ARW in Phoenix who scored 664 points out of a possible 820.