Thursday, October 05, 2017

Face of Defense: Soldier Claims Multiple Marksmanship Titles

By Army Maj. Michelle Lunato, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit

FORT BENNING, Ga., Oct. 5, 2017 — The definition of success is the accomplishment of one's goals. For the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit based here, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Green was the embodiment of that definition over the summer.

In less than three months, the Service Rifle Team soldier claimed 14 individual championship titles and contributed to six team championship trophy wins. Out of those 20 top finishes, Green broke eight national records -- six individual and two team.

Though Army Marksmanship Unit soldiers are known for their success, Green's accomplishments exceed the "home of champions" moniker, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Shane Barnhart, a shooter/instructor on the Service Rifle Team and Ashley, Ohio, native.

"He shot amazing this summer -- probably the best anyone has ever performed in the history of the USAMU Service Rifle Team, … at least since I've have been here the last 18 years," Barnhart said.

Green, from Bogalusa, Louisiana, has been a winning member of the team since 2004. He has repeatedly won notable honors such as three Interservice Overall Champion titles, five Interservice Long-Range Champion titles and two National High-Power Champion titles. Even with all this success, Green's competitive nature forces him to consistently find ways to improve upon his skills. This year, he said, his adjustments paid big dividends.

Clear Plan of Action

"I changed my mental game up a little bit this year, kind of approaching each and every shot with a clear plan of action," he said. "And, it's really paid off."

This change involved taking notes on how he felt, what results he achieved and what techniques he used in various situations, Green explained. As he prepared for the summer series of competitions, he said, referred back to those notes and adjusted again, and then again. "When I got off track, I went back and read my notes and really got back into it. I focused on the shot and the rifle, not the outcome," he added. "I think that's what really helped me out this year."

Green said keeping a clear focus can be difficult, but it's critical for competitive shooters looking for an edge.

"Anytime you step onto a rifle range, you are going to focus on something," he said. "You are either going to worry about your gear, the weather, or this or that. I tried to take myself out of that completely. I didn't worry about anything. I simply focused on breaking the best shots I could -- each and every shot. That was my main focus."

Trust Breeds Success

Staying focused on one shot at a time allowed the Service Rifle Team soldier to trust his gear, trust his experience and trust his skill, and that trust freed him up for even more success.

"When you take away a lot of the worries that you have, it really opens your path up to do the right thing at the right time."

With advanced technology improving the gear and the rules changing to allow optics in some matches, finding that self-control has become the key to continued success in the high-power sport, Green said. "We have the best equipment, best rifles, best ammunition, and best glass (optics)," he added. "We have all the equipment. So the shooter is the weak link."

Coping with that reality and finding out what it takes to continuously improve is what the soldiers do at USAMU. It is also what serious high-power sportsmen need to do, Green said after competing in the 56th Annual Interservice Championships in Quantico, Virginia, where he claimed his fourth Interservice Overall Champion title. His winning score of 998-52X broke the 1994 record of 995-50X that was set by retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. Don Heuman, who later became a coach for the USAMU Service Rifle Team.

Staying in the Game

"The equipment is very, very good these days, so it's every man for himself up there," Green said. "You are shoulder to shoulder with the best there are in your particular discipline. So it's all about how you can drive the rifle and mentally stay in the game."

For those who debate the recent use of optics in some competitive matches, the 13-year-veteran of the Service Rifle Team agrees that it is "a different game now."

"It takes a lot more to break good shots with iron sights," Green said. "It just does. There is no question about it. But optics are the new norm. They are not going away."

The use of optics though, is not a bad thing to Green. He explained that iron sights lead to more eye fatigue, which caused a number of people to leave the sport. Allowing optics into some of the matches brings those people back, he said.

"It brought back people who just couldn't see the sights anymore," Green said. "It opened it back up for those guys."

Handling the Pressure

When everyone has the same gear, the bottom line still comes down to the shooter and the shooter's skills. And in the end, the best shooter is the one who hits the most targets, said Green, who just spent the summer competing in several matches against hundreds of civilians, veterans and other current service members across the Department of Defense.

Being a soldier definitely aided with the knowing-what-to-do and how-to-handle-pressure elements of competition, because through all the training, you learn things about yourself when you develop as a soldier, Green said. "It gives you a whole different perspective on the things you are doing," he added. "It really helps narrow your intent and helps you focus on what matters."

Discipline and Structure

The discipline and structure the Army provides makes the team stronger and communicate better, said Green, who occasionally shoots with various civilian teams for fun. "Just being in the Army in general has made me a much better shooter for sure, and I feel very fortunate," he said. "I would have never imagined that I could do something I love so much for a living, especially for the military."

USAMU soldiers train for hours and focus on little details. All that time together makes the team a family, and when it comes to family, team matches are even more important, Green said. "You don't want to let anybody down," he added. "You don't want to let your teammates down for sure."

But that doesn't mean the soldiers are not competitive with each other. They all want to win. That is what they train for, after all.

"All of us are competitive," Green said. "Everyone out here on this firing line today is a competitive person, whether or not they want to admit it."

That internal competition makes the USAMU soldiers better as they vie for top honors. Then after the season, they compile their notes as a team in efforts to improve marksmanship techniques across the Army. While an improved force is a long-term goal of the USAMU, the short-term goal is to win competitions. And with a team of competitive experts on the range, Green said his adjustments to improve can never stop.
"You can't let your guard down for a second," he said. "They will pass you up."

Missouri Air Guard Wing Supports Hurricane Relief Efforts

By Air Force 1st Lt. Phil Fountain, Missouri Air National Guard

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., Oct. 5, 2017 — For nearly a month, the Missouri Air National Guard’s 139th Airlift Wing has been proving its value as part of the operational reserve by performing more than 100 sorties in support of hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, airmen from the St. Joseph-based 139th were among the first called to respond with their C-130 Hercules aircraft, said Army Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, Missouri’s Adjutant General.

Helping Fellow Americans

“Our airmen were immediately ready to help their fellow Americans, first in Texas and Florida, and now in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Danner said. “Bringing people and supplies to areas hit by these storms is a critical, immediate need and the fact our 139th was one of the first called and one of the most relied upon speaks to the wing’s professionalism and effectiveness.”

To date, the Missouri airmen have flown about 140 sorties in support of the relief effort, airlifting hundreds of thousands of pounds of cargo. The wing’s commander, Air Force Col. Ed Black, has flown a C-130 to the Caribbean islands. He was among the first to land on St. Thomas after Hurricane Maria.

“We all understand that our role is a serious one,” Black said. “We were able to land and put the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron [from the Kentucky Air National Guard] on the ground to open the airfield [on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands]. Opening the field is critical to starting the flow of relief efforts.”

Black also discussed the personal impact of the mission.

“Those hills used to be green -- every tree was stripped clean,” Black said. “The St. Thomas you remember is no more. It leaves an impression. It compels us to volunteer to assist in any way possible.”

Another pilot to fly into the region was Air Force Col. Timothy P. Murphy, the 139th Operations Group commander, who had the opportunity to directly interact with local residents.

Grateful Citizens

“The resiliency of the people has been overwhelming,” Murphy said. “You see devastation all around you; no power, no timeline. Yet, they are still positive and just so grateful for every little thing we do. It is the attitude of everyone in the region that we encountered.”

Currently, the 139th has about 30 service members tasked to serve in the Virgin Islands. Their role is part of a larger mission being orchestrated by the joint-service 601st Air Operations Center, a component of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.

Coordinating the effort on the ground is Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Rhys L. Wilson, the air cargo superintendent for the 139th. He is currently serving as the senior chief air advisor for the Virgin Islands Air National Guard and is overseeing the aerial port operations in St. Croix, which includes nearly 50 airmen from multiple Air National Guard wings.

“The people here truly appreciate us,” Wilson said. “I have received more hugs from total strangers.”

‘Morale is High’

Wilson said his airmen are excited to be part of the mission.

“The morale is high in the aerial port,” Wilson said. “They are working well downloading the airplanes and assisting the Army uploading trucks.”

Additionally, the National Guard Bureau has set up an aerial port in Savannah, Georgia, to coordinate Air National Guard assets flying into the region. The missions range from troop transportation to the delivery of food, water, generators, medical supplies and other needed supplies.

Even as the 139th supported hurricane relief operations, they’ve continued normal business and contributed greatly to a state mission in Missouri and have deployed airmen abroad.
“I’m very impressed with what our airmen have accomplished these past few weeks,” Danner said. “Even as they flew sorties to support fellow Americans affected by hurricanes, they mobilized dozens of members to support efforts for a recent mobilization to St. Louis, and have deployed dozens of airmen in support of overseas contingencies operations. Like the rest of the Missouri Guard, the 139th is a versatile, seasoned, ready force.”

Over 11,000 DoD Personnel Aid Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Efforts

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2017 — More than 11,000 Defense Department personnel now are in Puerto Rico, helping the U.S. territory recover from the wrath of Hurricane Maria in the areas of logistics, medical support and aviation, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said during a news conference in San Juan this morning.

DoD continues to expand a comprehensive island-wide commodities distribution and medical support network in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to today’s DoD update of activities in Puerto Rico.

The department’s response efforts focus on supporting FEMA priorities for distributing food and supplies, producing and distributing clean water, delivering generator fuel to hospitals, clearing roads and working on the Guajataca Dam spillway, the governor said.

DoD also is supporting the restoration of access to other essential city services, including sewage and wastewater treatment, he said.

“We have already signed a mission agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start reestablishing electrical transmission and distribution effectively in Puerto Rico,” Rossello said.

USNS Comfort

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort arrived in Puerto Rico Oct. 3 and docked in San Juan, the governor said, noting that the ship has 250 beds and capacity for 1,000 patients. More than 500 medical personnel are on board and can serve more than 200 patients a day.

“Right now it has about 64 patients,” he added, and has received an assignment based on an assessment completed yesterday by the PR Department of Health, DoD, HHS and FEMA “to make sure that we know what the needs are in each region in Puerto Rico so we can deploy the USNS Comfort appropriately, in a route that makes sense” for all patients.

The route includes several cities, and according to the DoD response update. The Comfort is en route to one of Puerto Rico’s largest cities, Ponce, at HHS request, to better meet the island’s medical requirements.

Rossello said the ship will pick up patients in need but also will deliver necessities to the cities where it will stop, including water, food, medicine and other resources.

“The USNS Comfort can also serve as a logistical mechanism to deploy food and services across Puerto Rico,” he added.

Logistics, Medical Support

U.S. Northern Command, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, continues to deploy five force packages, each with enhanced logistics capacity centered on commodity distribution and medical support.

Force Package 1, for command and control, is on the ground in Puerto Rico. Force Packages 2 and 3 are sustainment/logistical units and associated command and control; elements of Force Package 2 deployed into Puerto Rico Sept. 30. More sustainment units and aviation elements deployed Oct. 1. Force Package 4 delivered helicopters Oct. 2-3, aviation command-and-control elements and medical units. Force Package 5 will provide more robust medical capacity.

Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, head of Northcom's Joint Force Land Component Command, or JFLCC, integrated 114 recently arrived bulk fuel trucks and six propane trucks, all from the Defense Logistics Agency, into the logistical distribution plan. Buchanan is in command of DoD’s Hurricane Maria response and relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Also part of the response, DoD has deployed a Veterans Affairs Medical Unit and is set to deploy an Army Combat Support Hospital and Expeditionary Medical Support Hospital.

The JFLCC surgeon is working with HHS, the Puerto Rico National Guard and the PR Health Department in continuing efforts to reassess and resupply hospitals across the country.