CAMP JOSEPH T. ROBINSON, Ark. (9/6/13) – Amid the crack of gunfire, the 2013 Winston P. Wilson Championship marksmanship competition kicked off here with more than 300 competitors from throughout the National Guard competing in a variety of matches showcasing skills with pistols, rifles and shotguns.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Army Sgt. Terry Pody, with the Illinois Army National Guard’s 135th Chemical Company and team coach of the team from the Illinois Army Guard. “We look forward to coming down here every year.”
For Pody, preparation for the competition starts months earlier.
“We train all year long to come down here,” he said, adding that he and his team mates start by studying the official match program and formulating a plan from there.
“We come up with a plan of how we can do our best,” he said. “What are we strong on? What are we weak on? What do we need to work on? So we make a plan and go to the range together and we start training.”
That translates to improving the marksmanship abilities of the Soldiers on his team.
“We want to bring our Soldiers down here and help them attain a level of marksmanship skill that they previously didn’t have,” said Pody.
But for those at the competition, winning isn’t the only benefit.
“You get to shoot with a lot of Soldiers that have a great deal of experience and a great deal of skill,” said Pody. “They’re all here to help the rest of use learn to be better marksman. Everybody is here trying to share what they know and how to do it. ”
Simply learning from others is what many who were expecting to take away from the competition.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Valdez, with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 293rd Combat Communication Squadron. “I was just going to go in and learn, observe and listen to what other shooters are saying. ”
For Valdez, that’s been the bigger focus of his time at the competition.
“Obviously, shooting is fun, but it’s the learning that is great,” he said. “After I fire a string I think back on what I did and didn’t do and I listen to other shooters as they tell me ‘I did this in this event or I did that over here.” It’s all learning.”
And that learning also helps to be able to better perform in stressful situations, said Valdez.
“Under stress you’re going to perform the way you performed in training,” he said. “With a competition, that’s introducing stress. Now you’re getting the hang of handling the stress.”
That’s one of Valdez’s favorite part of the competition, he said.
“That’s what I like about the competition,” said Valdez. “It’s the not the same as in real (combat) but at least it’s some stress so you start learning how you perform under stress. You can then learn how to improve so that if you ever end up in the real thing, you’re better prepared.”
Being prepared is also part of two elements-leadership and marksmanship-that are stressed by the Army, said Pody.
“The Army defines two (of) the paramount Soldier skills as leadership and marksmanship,” he said. “We want to come down here to learn to be masters of both of those, take those back home and teach the rest of our Soldiers to be the masters of those also. ”
That also means working on your own individual skills, said Pody, adding that he prefers to focus on shooting with pistols because of that.
“I think it’s easier to shoot and hit further out than it is close in with pistols,” he said. “So, I like to work on pistols. It’s more challenging for me because that’s my weaker discipline. ”
And in the end, taking part in the competition is just exciting, said Pody.
“One word that describes this event would be motivating,” he said. “Coming down here motivates us to want to be better Soldiers.”
And Pody wants that enthusiasm to translate to other Soldiers.
“What I’m looking forward to happening is we bring some young Soldier down here who is new to the Army and new to the competitive marksmanship experience and they just do great and they get on fire about being an American Soldier,” he said.