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NHNG Marksmanship Team Hits Their Target

157th Air Refueling Wing -- Some of New Hampshire's most accomplished shooters squared off Aug. 21 - 22 during the New Hampshire National Guard Combat Marksmanship Competition at US Army Base Fort Devens in Devens, Mass.

Competing against one another, NH soldiers and Airmen vied for coveted slots on the NH Combat Squad, which will compete at the New England Warrior Challenge/The National Guard Marksmanship Advisory Council Region 1 Regional Competition in September.

Although participants were competitive, the real goal of the shootout was to provide valuable training that could mean the difference between life and death while deployed.

"This training could ultimately save some soldier's life," said Iraqi war veteran retired Sgt. 1st Class Jon Worrall, who was medically retired from the NH National Guard after being struck by an individual explosive device during OIF2 in 2004 and now volunteers to help train Guard members.

"Marksmanship skills are vital to survival on the battlefield. Even though marksmanship is a basic soldiering skill, it's one of the most perishable soldier skills we train." said Maj. Roy Hunter, chief of the Sustainment Training Branch. "We specialize in developing, mastering and maintaining these skills in Soldiers and Airmen in the National Guard."

"The year-long training involved with this program is the culmination of hard work and dedication amongst the competitors," said Hunter. "We ask that each individual attend most if not all training events. To really become distinguished, it takes much more practice -- all the 'good' shooters practice on their own." said Major Hunter.

A perfect example of the hard work and dedication necessary to achieve success is Staff Sgt. Jacob Poole, who is New Hampshire's second soldier to achieve a "double distinguished" since the competition's inception in 1884. This distinction is earned for superior marksmanship and is nationally recognized and a US Army distinguished designation.

Staff Sgt. Poole earned his impressive distinction in both rifle and pistol, and now serves as a training instructor and mentor to other NH guard personnel.

"What we do here competitively adds stress, other than being fired at with live rounds, it's the best way to simulate stress in an actual combat environment," he said. "This training will prove incredibly valuable while deployed."

The weekend's top performers for combat rifle, combat pistol and overall top gun scores are as follows:

High scores for Top Combat Rifle, with a possible score of 430: Lt. Col. Michael Blair, NHANG, with a score of 290, Staff Sgt. Robert Pinard, NHARNG, 269 and Tech. Sgt. Michael Bane, NHANG, 262.

High Scores for Top Combat Pistol with a total possible score of 500: Tech. Sgt. Bane, NHANG with a score of 451, Lt. Col. Michael Blair, NHANG, 402 and Spc. Steven Dahms, NHARNG, 398.
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