Tennessee TAG marksmenship pistol match offers outstanding opportunity

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kendra M. Owenby
  • 134 ARW Public Affairs
"Lock, load, watch and shoot...fire". These were the all too familiar commands at the 2014 Tennessee Adjutant General (TAG) Marksmanship Pistol Match. The event was held at the Army National Guard Range in Tullahoma, Tennessee Aug. 14-17. The match is the first of two marksmanship proficiency training exercises this year for members of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard. The second exercise will be held Sept. 24-27 and will test rifle skills of the Soldiers and Airmen. In past years both rifle and pistol matches were held at the same time, but this year they were scheduled separately so that more focus can be placed on training on each weapon system.
The purpose of the exercises is to provide training and promote marksmanship skills within the Army and Air National Guard. Service members from both branches come together to train with some of the most knowledgeable and talented marksmen in the nation. The match instructors are previous winners of state, regional and national championships making the training provided at the matches second to none.

Each match consisted of three days of training and competition. On the first day, the Soldiers and Airmen spent the morning in the classroom learning weapons safety, proper small arms techniques and fundamentals. They finished off the afternoon on the range with live fire exercises and hands-on training putting those techniques and fundamentals into practice. Shooting from different distances in the standing, kneeling, crouching and prone positions they were acclimated to the Beretta M9, which is the issued U.S. service pistol.

On the first day of training the soldiers and Airmen were visited by the Tennessee Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Max Haston, and Assistant Adjutant General, Air, Brig. Gen. Donald Johnson at separate times during the day. Both were excited to see the Soldier's and Airmen's participation in the program. Recent budget cuts have affected many programs across the military and the TAG Match has not been immune. Both generals spoke briefly on the importance of the future of the match to the Tennessee National Guard and how cuts have decreased funding for the program.
"I appreciate you guys and gals coming out here and taking part in this event. It is a very important event," stated Maj. Gen. Haston. He talked with the Soldiers and Airmen about the necessity of the training and the benefits of learning the fundamentals of marksmanship for all service members.
Brig. Gen. Johnson also stressed the high value of the training. He expressed his appreciation for the service members' dedication to making it to the event in spite of the funding cuts.

"Thank you all for coming out here and spending your weekend to take part in this event. I know some of you came out here on your own," said Brig. Gen. Johnson.

Brig. Gen. Johnson joined the soldiers and Airmen with his M9 service pistol for some range time during the first stage of live fire training. He received some pointers from one of the course instructors, Sergeant First Class Dave Keenom, a national marksmanship champion, on handgun techniques, fundamentals and range commands.

The second day consisted of a series of matches at different distances. During these matches scores are taken into consideration for qualifying service members for future invitational matches such as the Winston P. Wilson match and other similar events held throughout the year. Teams were formed and competition began with an Alternate Pistol Qualification Course (APQC). Next came the Excellence In Competition (EIC) match. The EIC match points can qualify service members for a permanent award in the form of a marksmanship badge that is authorized for wear in the service dress uniform. Finishing up the days competition was the Anti-Body Armor match which simulates engaging an enemy combatant wearing body armor and conducting rapid fire engagements on multiple targets. This is a fast paced match that raises the stress factor by testing marksmanship skills and the shooter's accuracy and timing simultaneously.

Brig. Gen. Terry Ethridge, Director of the Joint Staff, Tennessee National Guard, visited the service members on the second day of the match. He echoed what Maj. Gen. Haston and Brig. Gen. Johnson had said during day one. He stressed the importance of marksmanship and how every service member should be proficient in these skills. During his visit, Brig. Gen. Ethridge was presented with the 2013 1st Place Team Combat Rifle plaque by the winning team to show their appreciation of his support of the program.

The third day consisted of a mini-Bianchi style match where teams are required to run a distance of 100 yards prior to assuming their battle positions and taking on the "enemy", which consisted of a series of steel targets, paper silhouette targets, and some long range targets thrown in for bonus points. During this timed match the Soldiers and Airmen were tested on their physical fitness, breathing control, and marksmanship skills in a battlefield environment.
Safety, which always takes top priority when dealing with weapons, was continually stressed throughout the course and there were many positive comments on how well the range was operated. Capt. Timothy Butler (Army), the range safety OIC, stressed the importance of making use of the valuable skills and training that the service members had gained over the past few days.

"Take this new knowledge and training that you have learned back to your units and pass it on to the Soldier or Airman on your left or on your right," said Butler.  

The idea behind the program is to train the ones who are available and then have those individuals carry their new skills and knowledge back to their units. It can only improve units as a whole since not every individual will be able to take advantage of the training first-hand. 
Of the twelve Army and Air National Guard teams that competed this year, three took home awards to show for their efforts. The 1st Place trophy went to Nashville (Air), 2nd Place went to Memphis (Air), and 3rd Place was awarded to Nashville (Army). There were individual awards as well for the top shooters with the highest aggregate scores in the matches. A new test portion of the program this year was the mini-Bianchi style match where Memphis (Air) took 1st Place, Nashville (Army) placed 2nd, and Knoxville (Air) captured 3rd Place.
After the awards ceremony, Sergeant First Class Keenom addressed the Soldiers and Airmen before they departed for their home stations.

"I hope everyone here will leave today feeling more confident in their marksmanship abilities; feeling like they are leaving with better marksmanship skills than they came here with a few days ago," said Keenom.
The Tennessee Adjutant General Marksmanship Match is an outstanding opportunity for Soldiers and Airmen of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard to receive training from some of the best instructors in the military and strengthen their marksmanship skills. Joint-force events such as the TAG Match build camaraderie between the sister services making this a win-win program for all.