CAMP ROBINSON, Ark. – Four Texas Army National Guard members won the 52nd Annual Winston P. Wilson Championship in Little Rock April 29-May 5.
The National Guard annually hosts the competition to promote marksmanship training. Guard members test their marksmanship skills and weapon systems in a battle-focused environment.
“Marksmanship is the quintessential skill of a Soldier,” said U.S. Army Col. Kevin Crawford, 176th Engineer Brigade commander. “Having Soldiers of this caliber are a force multiplier to having trained, mission-ready forces. The outcome was fantastic, allowing their world-class performance to take the competition.”
Crawford said the Soldiers spend countless hours of their own time mastering their individually assigned weapons.
This year’s competition featured 57 four-person teams representing 43 states and territories.
The Texas Army National Guard team, known as the Texas Alpha Team, included Sgt. 1st Class Charles Stevener, Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Duron, both from 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment; 1st Lt. Samuel Slichter of 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade; and Capt. Ross Buntyn of 111st Engineer Battalion, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. Buntyn served as team captain.
Team awards won by Texas Alpha Team included High Overall Team Aggregate and High Overall Rifle Team Aggregate. Individual awards included 1st Place Overall Novice, 1st Place Rifle Novice, 3rd Place Rifle Novice, and 3rd Place Pistol Novice.
“The team was successful due to our consistency. This consistency, regardless of weather conditions, fatigue, time of day, or match format, led to our success,” said Slichter. “As a team, we consistently placed around the top 10 and as individuals placed in the top quarter.”
Established by Maj. Gen. Winston P. Wilson, then chief of the National Guard Bureau, the first rifle and pistol championships took place at Camp Robinson in 1971.
In 2007, the competition was revamped to focus on combat survivability and the capability of service members to employ their service weapons effectively.
While basic marksmanship is still integral to the competition, combat realism, physical exertion and close individual and team coordination of the participants are now emphasized.
This year, the Texas Alpha Team competed day and night against other teams in 29 marksmanship challenges, using their M4A1 carbine and M17 service weapons.
Challenges included individual and team events ranging from close-quarter battle scenarios to long-distance marksmanship. Teams navigated strong winds, harsh sunlight, exhaustion and various shooting formats.
“Each member was encouraging and did not allow any setbacks to negatively affect each other’s performance,” said Buntyn. “As a team, we meshed very well and played off of each other’s strengths. We did our best to take learning points from each match, maintain a professional attitude, and remained emotionally detached from the outcome, which allowed us to perform consistently.”