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NEWS | Aug. 13, 2012

DC Army National Guard captain brings home gold in international military skills competition

By Army 1st Lt. Miranda Summers-Lowe District of Columbia National Guard

HOEVELTE, Denmark - Army Capt. Leala McCollum, a pilot with the 121st Medical Company (Air Ambulance), District of Columbia Army National Guard, was a member of a team that won the gold medal in the international category at the NATO Inter-allied Confederation of Reserve Officers' Military Skills Competition, held here.

The CIOR competition consists of a pentathlon with rifle and pistol marksmanship, land and water obstacle courses and a 10-15 kilometer orienteering course, as well as casualty care, and a written test on the Laws of Armed Conflict. Team and individual medals are given for each event as well as overall.

Because of the way in which teams are organized for the competition, McCollum found herself a part of an international team, rather than on a team made up of U.S. service members, which provided her with a unique experience.

"Coming together last minute was hard," she said. "I had prepared with my U.S. teammates, practicing events like the obstacle course. Then we had to compete with another team."

McCollum would go on to find that competing with an international team was one of the highlights of the competition.

"The teambuilding with our international partners was the best part. We worked hand-in-hand with other nations. It was my first year on an international team. We (the U.S. team she had trained with) weren't happy about being split up, but it really worked out. I learned a lot about other countries and how their militaries are structured." said McCollum.

McCollum broke a toe midway through and had to be replaced by an alternate, but her shooting and casualty care scores were enough to help her team win the gold.

"It was frustrating and disappointing to fracture my toe," she said. "A French teammate stepped in, and we were still able to win the gold in the international category." said McCollum.

McCollum, along with three other servicemembers on the international teams, were given Sportsmanship Awards from the Danish delegation.

The Team U.S.A Military Men's Team won gold medals in the novice category. Thirty-five three-person teams from 14 countries participated in the competition. Out of 6,000 possible points, the U.S.A team edged out the Silver Medal winners by 8.7 points.

This was McCollum's second time participating in the event. She had previously competed in the 2008 event in Istanbul, Turkey, and said she plans to try-out for the team again, and hopes to see the program grow.

"It would be great to get a full female team or send multiple teams. Other countries, like the Germans or the British, usually send multiple teams."