Taking aim at a championshipA team of four shooters in the North Dakota National Guard’s 817th Engineer Company (Sapper), Jamestown, recently earned second place at the Marksmanship Advisory Council Regional Competition at Camp Guernsey, Wyo. The men will vie for national titles in the all-Army and all-National Guard contests in the spring.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
A team of four shooters in the North Dakota National Guard’s 817th Engineer Company (Sapper), Jamestown, recently earned second place at the Marksmanship Advisory Council Regional Competition at Camp Guernsey, Wyo.
The men will vie for national titles in the all-Army and all-National Guard contests in the spring.
“It’s definitely a good time. There’s a lot of camaraderie involved in it,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Gehlhar, of West Fargo, N.D., formerly of Ypsilanti, one of the soldiers on the team.
Gehlhar and some of his teammates, Spec. Evan Messer, of Fargo, Sgt. Robert Mahoney, Fargo, and Spec. Levi Harrington, Jamestown, praised their coach, Sgt. 1st Class Gary Varberg, for his leadership and assistance in preparing for the competitions.
The team was beaten by a group from South Dakota, but by only 30 points. Other competitors in the regional contest came from Montana, Wyoming, Idahol, Arkansas and Oregon.
As in the state shooting match, the team had several rounds with pistols and rifles, but in addition, they participated in a machine gun round.
During that part of the competition, two people begin as machine gunners, with the other two serving as assistant gunners, and after the shooter is out of ammo, the assistant gunner runs to fetch another belt of ammunition, loads and becomes the shooter.
The paper targets are only 10 or 15 meters away, but they are about the size of a Clementine orange, Gehlhar said. Some targets are worth more than others, and shooting some targets actually costs points rather than earning them.
“The idea is, a machine gun is an area weapon but you need to have some precision on it,” Gehlhar said. “And they’re so fast that if you pull the trigger once, if you don’t know how to manipulate it right, five or six shots will go off.”
Because the competition only requires three shots in a target, spending six shots to get three would be a waste of ammunition — and each person only gets 60 rounds.
“We won that round by, I think it was almost 100 points compared to everybody else,” Harrington said.
In the other matches, the difficulty was also increased by adding range. Some of the targets were 400, 500 or even 600 meters away, Gehlhar said, and the shorter-range matches were timed.
“There’s some team matches, and so you definitely rely on your team and you have to have a strategy going into it,” Gehlhar said. “I enjoy the team matches the most, because you have to think it over and talk it over and decide how you’re going to divide up the rounds. And everybody has to contribute to the team goal.”
Competition was tougher at the regional level than the state level, Messer said. Flood duty also prevented the Sapper group from practicing much.
“Everybody was really well-prepared this year, and we didn’t get as much time to practice as we would have liked,” Messer explained. “Hopefully, before we go to the next level we’ll get a lot more practice in and we’ll be able to compete with the best of them.”
The group has some team practices scheduled for September, and intends to work on some shooting fundamentals, tighten up shot groups and practice long-distance shots.
“We’ve always done very well,” Mahoney said. “We always practice quite a bit and have very good shooters in our unit. It’s always good to do very well, but it’s kind of something that we’re expecting to do well.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at klucin@ jamestownsun.com