NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Six four-person teams consisting of top shooters from the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves competed in the 30th Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting (AFSAM) Aug. 28-Sept. 3.
Taking first place as the top AFSAM team and winner of the Lexington Green Trophy was the All Guard Alpha team, represented by U.S. Army Guardsmen Sgt. Tyler Goldade, North Dakota National Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Swanson, Wisconsin National Guard, and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Noe and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Nathan Watters, Arkansas National Guard.
Each year on the final day of the competition, the Lexington Green Trophy winners are determined by the top aggregate team score from one combined arms and one rifle match. Teams are allowed to reconstitute and bring on different members to compete for the coveted trophy.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gavin Rook, North Dakota National Guard, from All Guard Charlie team, is the Individual Grand Aggregate Champion and recipient of the SFC Brent Joseph Lantagne Trophy.
"We are truly honored to have our All Guard Combat team and the U.S. Army Reserves at the 2021 Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting," said U.S. Army Col. Andy Bussell, commander of the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center, which hosted the event at the Robinson Maneuver Training Center.
AFSAM invitees are military teams from the National Guard's All Guard, multinational community, and other U.S. service components.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, teams from foreign countries were not able to participate this year, but the Reserves stepped up and were able to provide two teams.
"This is the highest level of competition that you can gain in the military," said Watters. "We come here, we validate our skills and we go forward and teach those skills to other Airmen and Soldiers in the military."
Watters had been working with the operations section during the Winston P. Wilson championships for the past 14 years. This year, he was able to compete again in both WPW and AFSAM after a long break as a competitor.
The overall second-place team is USAR Black, Majs. Jesse Campbell and Grant Urick, Sgt. Devin Hughes, and Staff Sgt. Sean Morris. Finishing third was All Guard Bravo team members Rook, Tech. Sgt. Scotty Daniel, Arkansas Air National Guard, Staff Sgt. Jerry Dement, Missouri Army National Guard, and Staff Sgt. Erik Vargas, California Army National Guard. Vargas is the Individual Grand Aggregate second-place winner, and Noe took home third.
Rook's victory at AFSAM was his second of the week. He earned the Individual Aggregate Champion title during the 50th WPW Rifle and Pistol Championships.
"This is my first year," said Rook, referring to the AFSAM matches. "I never thought I'd come here and I'd win it. … There was a lot of obstacles to get here, but glad I was able to show up and compete."
Competitors value the training that marksmanship competitions like this provide, and they encourage commanders to send their members to participate.
"A commander would only benefit from having their Soldier come to an event like this, just due to the amount of talent that's available here at this one location," said Morris. "They can then, in turn, take that back to their unit and impart those pieces of wisdom gained here to the Soldiers at their unit to increase lethality at their individual section."
Readiness and lethality are some of the priorities of the Department of Defense. Competitors want them to know that training at competitions such as this is invaluable.
"Competition in and of itself within the Army and the DOD in general is completely undervalued," said Morris. "They don't understand that what we're trying to do here is to increase our skill set and help ourselves, as well as our units, become more lethal and able to do our job for the U.S. Army and the DOD, as a whole."
30th Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting Rifle and Pistol Results
Overall International Team Champion
Recipient of the Lexington Green Trophy: All Guard Alpha: Goldade, Noe, Swanson and Watters
International Rifle Team Champions
Australian Marksmanship Trophy: All Guard Alpha: Noe, Swanson, Watters and U.S. Army Capt. Garrett Miller, Arkansas National Guard
Second Place-All Guard Bravo: Dement, Goldade, Vargas and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Bautista, Idaho National Guard
Third Place-USAR Black: Hughes, Morris, Maj. Thomas Conners and Sgt. 1st Class Godel
International Pistol Team Champions
Commander in Chief's Service Pistol Team Trophy: All Guard Alpha: Miller, Noe, Swanson and Watters
Second Place-All Guard Bravo: Bautista, Dement, Goldade and Vargas
Third Place-USAR Black: Conners, Godel, Hughes and Morris
Individual Grand Aggregate Champion
Recipient of the SFC Brent Joseph Lantagne Trophy: Rook
Combat Rifle Individual Aggregate Champion
Recipient of the German Defense Forces Service Rifle Trophy: Vargas
Combat Pistol Individual Aggregate Champion
Recipient of the LTC John A. Berheim Trophy: Noe