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Get on target with marksmanship

Posted 1/22/2013   Updated 1/22/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Victoria Greenia
158th Fighter Wing

1/22/2013 - SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -- As the airman awkwardly pointed the .22 pistol toward the target on the range, Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hale carefully instructed her on correct body mechanics. The two were practicing with pistols at the Lamoille firing range on a chilly fall day. "Wrap your hands around it, thumbs touching. Cup your fingers in the front to help hold the weight, and have your arms straight out. Straight arms improve accuracy."

Hale is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Vermont Air National Guard's Marksmanship Training Unit. The MTU is described by 1st Lt. Christopher Bean, the MTU officer-in-charge, as an under-utilized program available to train VTANG members to effectively use firearms. In the past it was a popular event but interest has slowly fizzled out, said Bean. He and Hale intend to not just revive participation but "take it to the next level." He said that marksmanship is an important skill for every VTANG member to have.

Vermont's finicky temperate somewhat dictates where the MTU meets for practice - in the nicer months they use local outdoor ranges. In the winter months coming up, however, they will be meeting indoors at the Sportsman's Club of Franklin County every Monday night from 5:30-9 (there is a fee involved to use the range). At the practices, experienced marksmen demonstrate and instruct people who are willing to learn.

"Only sixty percent of the people preparing to go to Afghanistan are passing the weapons qualification," Bean said. "Think about this. Our people are about to enter a warzone, and only around half can accurately shoot."

Airmen may think they are doing their part to go and practice shooting by themselves. However, Bean said if people practice on their own without proper instruction they may train themselves to shoot incorrectly.

Senior Airman Sean Hamel, a regular participant of the MTU, is the first to admit that when he joined he had some bad habits to overcome. For instance, he wasn't focusing with his dominant eye and he was shooting with the wrong hand. But the more seasoned airmen gave critical advice which improved his performance. "The guys running the program have a wealth of knowledge and are eager to help. They aren't looking for sharpshooters; they want anyone who is willing to dedicate the time to perfecting his or her skills."

There another bonus to the program: airmen who get involved with the MTU are opened to a host of competitions all over the U.S. and even in other countries. Each year there is the Adjutant General's Match, Interservice Rifle Championships in Quantico, Va., the Combat Marksmanship Competition, and many more. Overseas, there are the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers and the Conseil International du Sport Militaire.

Whether an airman wants to conquer one of these competitions or just improve his or her firing accuracy, the MTU with its veteran marksmen can help an airman develop skills that every military member should have.

Other than fees for using the ranges, the program doesn't cost members anything but time and dedication. With prior notice, weapons and ammunition can be provided during training. People interested should contact either 1st Lt. Christopher Bean or Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hale. Both are eager to see the Marksmanship Program grow in participants and see VTANG member succeed in mastering the perishable skill of marksmanship.

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