BARLING, Ark. – Twenty-three two-person sniper teams from across the National Guard and 12 interservice teams competed in the 50th Winston P. Wilson Sniper Championship and the 30th Annual Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting Dec. 4-10.
"We are truly honored to have teams from across the nation and other military services at the 2020 WPW and AFSAM Sniper Championship," said Col. Andy Bussell, commander of the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, which hosted the event at Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center.
Out of the 70 sniper competitors, six walked away with the highest honors.
This year's overall AFSAM Sniper Team Champions are California National Guard Staff Sgts. Demetrios H. Iannios and Eric J. Vargas, representing the National Guard on the All Guard Sniper Team. Their score of 625.5 was first overall out of 35 sniper teams. The Special Warfare Training Group Team finished second and the U.S. Marine Corps Marine Raider Training Center Team was third.
The overall WPW Sniper Team Champions and recipients of the Chief's 50 Marksmanship Badge are Sgt. Triston Ivkov and Spc. Max Miller, Colorado National Guard. They scored 546.5 points to place second overall out of 35 sniper teams.
Iowa National Guard Spcs. Aaron M. McAndrews and Kyle R. Thies won the prestigious Chief's 50 Marksmanship Badge with a score of 504, placing third overall out of 35 sniper teams and second place overall in the WPW. The Utah National Guard team is the third place WPW champion, finishing fifth overall out of the 35 teams.
Bragging rights are great, but readiness is the key priority for the NGMTC.
"The National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, as the home to the chief of the National Guard Bureau's marksmanship program, tries to ensure that each member of his Army and Air National Guard is fully capable of employing his/her assigned weapon," said Bussell.
Although this is a competition, it is also a cleverly disguised training event.
"The matches consist of shooting, fieldcraft, and basically all sniper related tasks, all the way down to the call for fire trainer," said Sgt. 1st Class Marcus Carver, one of the competition cadre and a sniper instructor from the U.S. National Guard Sniper School.
Attendees learn how to maneuver and shoot in a carefully orchestrated chaos that mimics a battle-like environment. This allows participating teams to hone in on their skills and develop new skills.
"This is the best sniper sustainment training in the country, hands down," said Miller. "... It's critical that we host competitions like this to make us better snipers."
To these warriors, the competitions are not just about seeing who is the best and walking away with a prize. It's about improving each other.
"We're all just trying to be the best that we can be and make everyone all around us better," said Vargas. "We all wear the same flag on our right shoulder, and that's what it's all about. Coming together. Doing what we need to do. Being masters at our craft, shooting well, and just getting the mission accomplished the best way we can."
National Guard teams from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Vermont participated in the competition.
National Guard Sniper Competition Results:
WPW Sniper Team Champions:
- Colorado Team, Sgt. Tristan J. Ivkov and Spc. Max A. Miller
- Iowa Team, Spc. Aaron M. McAndrews and Spc. Kyle R. Thies
- Utah Team, Staff Sgt. Nick D. Hardin and Master Sgt. Richard T. Weems
WPW Precision Engagement Team Champions:
Utah Team, Staff Sgt. Nick D. Hardin and Master Sgt. Richard T. Weems
WPW Silent Hunter Team Champions:
Iowa Team, Spc. Aaron M. McAndrews and Spc. Kyle R. Thies
AFSAM Sniper Team Champions:
All Guard Team, California National Guard, Staff Sgts. Demetrios H. Iannios and Eric J. Vargas
Special Warfare Training Group Team, Sgt. 1st Class Jeff D. and Staff Sgt. Bj J.
U.S. Marine Corps Marine Raider Training Center Team, Staff Sgt. Dylan P. Deano and Gunnery Sgt. Eduardo L. Ocampo
AFSAM Precision Engagement Team Champions:
Georgia National Guard AFSAM Team, Sgt. 1st Class Josh S. Cavalier and Sgt. 1st Class Johnathan W. Ward
AFSAM Silent Hunter Team Champions:
National Guard Warrior Training Center Team, Spc. Johnathan N. Hjelle and Robert T. Hull