Kentucky Marksmanship Team competes in Caribbean

Story and photos by Sgt. Scott Raper, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Capt. Steve Smith of the 41st Civil Support Team fires his Colt 1911 during a pistol competition at Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center, Puerto Rico, Jan. 13. Members of the Kentucky National Guard Marksmanship Team traveled to to compete in the 2012 Puerto Rico State Match. (Photo by Sgt. Scott Raper, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

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CAMP SANTIAGO, Puerto Rico – As snowflakes and daily temperatures dropped across the bluegrass, several Kentucky Guardsmen enjoyed a warm alternative in the Caribbean.  They are members of the Kentucky National Guard Marksmanship Team who traveled to the tropical climate to compete in the 2012 Puerto Rico State Match.

“It’s a chance to meet with military and civilian professionals, to build relationships and to gain more experience in different kinds of matches,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Dean, a state marksmanship coordinator.  “Kentucky has been competing in Puerto Rico for about twenty years.”

Annually the Puerto Rico National Guard sponsors the event held at Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center in the southern city of Salinas.  A mixture of Soldiers and civilians competed in four full days of shooting with both rifle and pistol matches.  Teams from North and South Carolina, Texas, New York and Mississippi also traveled to the sun-filled island to shoot against Puerto Ricans on their home turf.

The ranges were busy with the sporadic gunfire from the well-aimed rifles and pistols of the competitors throughout the event.  With striking mountains rising as the backdrop, targets were hung at distances of up to 600 yards for the .223 service rifle shooters.  Matches included prone, standing and sitting positions.  Within earshot of the rifle rounds, those with pistols walked between the 25 and 50-yard line to check their shots.  Pistol matches included .22 LR, 9mm and .45 ACP ammunition.

“The wide variety of rounds and events helps us out with the fundamentals of marksmanship,” said Dean.  “We do some things differently here, but all in all, its great practice for us.”

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Chief Warrant Officer Greg Scott fires a round down range as part of a shooting competition at Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center, Puerto Rico, Jan. 15. Scott took third place individually the Rifle Marksman Class in the 2012 Puerto Rico State Match. (Photo by Sgt. Scott Raper, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

Practice for one Soldier is exactly what was needed to return to routines and comfortable territory.  Chief Warrant Officer Greg Scott deployed last year to Iraq with the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.  Having just returned in December, the reintegration continues for Scott.  And a shooting match in the Caribbean is a good start, as he took third in the Rifle Marksman Class.

“This is my first chance to get back into the swing of things,” said Scott.  “It’s a special feeling to get back to some hobbies here at home.  And, hey, it’s Puerto Rico!”

Scott’s teammates also returned to good form as both rifle and pistol teams brought home awards from the match.  Each team placed third in the overall results.  And individually, Sgt. Joel Ray Campbell of the 41st Civil Support Team finished second in Rifle Master Class.  Team members represented the long rifle on their shoulder patch well, setting a high note to begin their competitive season.

“This match is a pre-cursor to state, regional and national matches ahead of us,” said Dean.  “It’s a great beginning… And it’s in the tropics, certainly better weather than Kentucky right now, so it’s a really nice experience.”

If you were to think that the team was provoking some jealousy, you may be right.  The annual trip to Puerto Rico is also a recruiting tool for the team to showcase the opportunities for future shooters.

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Members of the Kentucky National Guard Marksmanship Team following an award ceremony at Camp Santiago Joint Maneuver Training Center, Puerto Rico, Jan. 15. Both Rifle and Pistol Teams took Third place in their respective competitions in the 2012 Puerto Rico State Match. (Photo by Sgt. Scott Raper, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

“The Marksmanship Team is always looking for the next best shooters,” said team coach, Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Reed.  “I know we have quality Soldiers out there with the skills to compete with this team.”

Each year the team organizes the Kentucky State Match to find talented shooters across the Commonwealth and give them the chance to represent their units.  This year’s match will be held the weekend of May 24 – 25 in Ft. Knox.

Interested Guardsmen should contact Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Reed by phone at 502.235.4262 or by e-mail at charles.h.reed@us.army.mil.

In addition to Puerto Rico, the team competes annually in several matches across the southeast and actively pursues new opportunities for competition.

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