By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau
The Wilson competition tests the abilities of shooters from throughout the Guard in a number of scenarios based on both individual and team proficiency with rifles, pistols and shotguns.
"It's very competitive," said Spc. Ryan Hale, with the Texas Army National Guard's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment. "It was pretty nerve wracking on some of these matches."
But for Hale, who took first place in a number of pistol and rifle categories, the competition was also a place to learn.
"Guys are here to win," he said. "But, at the same time everybody is helping each other out on the line."
Hale said he learned different techniques that he can apply at next year's matches.
"I've learned a lot," he said. "I've learned different shooting positions and improvements on the fundamentals of marksmanship and just how important it is to practice those things and become more proficient in what we do."
And that is the larger point to the matches.
"What I like about this program is the older competitors will always help the newer competitors," said Sgt. 1st Class Micah Marchand, a member of the National Guard Marksman Training Unit who ran several of the matches. "It's very rare that you'll see the more experienced shooters not help the younger shooters."
And becoming a proficient marksman-especially one at the competition level-takes time.
"It's a long, drawn out process and it's something that develops over the years," said Marchand. "It took me a good three to five years to finally become a successful marksman."
Becoming a successful marksman, as well as preparing to shoot in the competition, comes down to practice.
"Practice is important," said Hale. "And knowing the course of fire. Those are the most important things you can do before coming here."
Hale, who took first place in four of the close to 30 competition matches, said he felt he could have been more familiar with the courses of fire.
"I knew them a little bit before coming out here, but I got a lot of help from those who have done it before and then learned the rest on the fly," he said, adding that while firing he was just hoping that he didn't miss.
And once he gets back to his unit, Hale said he has an obligation to pass on what he's learned at the competition.
"My unit has given me a lot of support to come here," he said. "But they also expect that that when you come back you train your other Soldiers on marksmanship. It's a very perishable skill and being at these matches, you end up teaching a lot of people when you go home."
Hale said he's looking forward to passing on things he's picked up at the competition and added that he didn't expect to do as well as he did.
"I was surprised by it," he said. "There's a lot of really good shooters out here. I was just happy to come out and get to shoot."