Two four-man teams from the Wyoming Army National Guard were among almost 500 shooters from 46 U.S. states and territories who sent bullets flying at the Winston P. Wilson (WPW) Championship, a competition conducted annually at Robinson Maneuver Training Center, in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
The April 7-11 combat-focused rifle and pistol competition is intended to promote growth and the development of state level marksmanship training, while evaluating individual shooters in collective tasks pertaining to that training, according to the tournament website.
Wyoming Army National Guard Master Sgt. Morgan Jenkins, the state’s marksmanship coordinator, has been attending the WPW for 15 years. The Wyoming team featured experienced shooters like Sgt. 1st Class David Hastings with 33 years, and first-time competitor Spc. Byron Mair, who credits Jenkins for his excellent sales pitch and invitation to some weapons clinics.
“I didn’t know about any of this until I started working up at Camp Guernsey,” Mair, from the 133rd Engineer Company, said. “I ran into Sergeant Jenkins and he asked, ‘do you want to get paid to shoot?’ “
Second year WPW competitor Spc. Kurt Needham, assigned to Training Center Command, jumped in saying, “hell yeah. That’s all I needed to hear too.”
Jenkins, who posted Wyoming’s top score, placing 29th at this year’s event, said, “These matches are the only place outside of actual combat situations where you can test your gear, your techniques and your training to see if it is effective. WPW has the highest level of participants in any of the combat national championships. A top-50 finish at this level is good. However my scores were lower this year because I have been focused on coaching and the service pistol.”
He applies the same philosophy to his own shooting that he tries to instill as a coach.
“I correct mental and fundamental errors and focus on repeating the things I performed correctly,” Jenkins explained.
Hastings said there are three key attributes to being a good marksmanship team member and competitor.
“Ability, availability and compatibility. You need to be able to shoot well, and be able to schedule time away to practice and compete and you can’t come down here thinking you know everything—hell, I’m still learning when I come here,” Hastings said.
“I’ve learned a s#!%-ton down here,” said an excited Mair during the third day of the five-day competition. “So far, this is really good. I guess I’m shooting well enough and I’ve met some really cool people. Everybody helps out and takes care of each other.”
Despite hard rain during the first couple of days and muddy conditions throughout the tournament, temperatures nearing 90 and some long waits between events, the WyoGuard shooters stayed positive, well, all but Sgt. 1st Class Josh “Angry Eddie” Edwards of the 94th Troop Command, who said with a laugh, “It was slicker than a greased doorknob out there.”
Mair is going to tell his buddies back home, “about the matches and it’s ungodly hot. The rain we got the first couple days was nice. It’s not like home—it’s warm.” Any Guard members interested in attending marksmanship clinics and joining a competitive team, may call Jenkins at 307-789-0380 ext. 4193.