The Michigan National Guard’s Small Arms Readiness Training Section hosted the annual Adjutant General’s Match and Governors 20 competition, Sept. 26-27, 2015, held at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, Grayling, Michigan.
The SARTS team has been hosting the event since 2013. This year, more than 100 competitors signed up for both the rifle and pistol events. The competition is important to the SARTS team for multiple reasons.
“Competition breeds excellence and we have worked really hard to make this a training event but also make it fun for the troops,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Menard, noncommissioned officer in charge of the SARTS team.
The competition began early Saturday morning with registration, safety briefs, and course-of-fire orientation. The courses have changed drastically over the years in part, due to more emphasis from senior leaders on improving marksmanship skills.
“We have changed things up a lot in the past few years thanks to emphasis from people like Lt. Col. Connelly [Ryan], director of operations for the Army Guard. He knows we need to focus on the basics,” said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Watkins, a member of the Premobilization Training and Assistance Element and the SARTS team. “He is the reason the SARTS team was stood up and the face of the Governors 20 has changed.”
The SARTS team spends countless hours training servicemembers in basic and advanced marksmanship tactics in order to provide subject matter experts to units across the state. They have proven to be an invaluable asset to the units of the Michigan National Guard.
“These guys really know what they are doing. They have trained my unit before and guys that have struggled to qualify improved drastically,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Johnson, Company D, 125th Infantry Regiment, Big Rapids, Michigan. “Their tips for improvement usually make a big difference in the way we shoot.”
For the SARTS team, the competition provides a rare opportunity to gauge how well they are doing their job.
“It is a good way to see the results of Army and Air marksmanship training,” said Staff Sgt. Nikolas Discher, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Adjutant Generals Match and the Governors 20. “We are able to validate the training and put it into circumstances [the courses of fire] that would be seen overseas.”
The annual competition has been held in Michigan for more than 20 years and awards the top 20 percent of shooters with the Governors 20 tab; a state award worn on the left shoulder patch. The tab is one of only four permanent patches authorized for wear on the Army Combat Uniform. The competition was started in 1968 by the Missouri National Guard and has been adopted by numerous other states.
Consisting of multiple courses-of-fire for the M9 pistol and the M4/M16 rifles, each event has been named to honor one of Michigan’s fallen heroes. The rifle course has been named after Sgt. Duane Dreasky. Dreasky died July 10, 2006, from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Habbaniyah, Iraq on November 21, 2005. Dreasky was deployed with Company B, 125th Infantry Regiment, Saginaw, Michigan.
The pistol course has been named after Sgt. Craig Frank. Frank died July 17, 2004 from injuries sustained when his vehicle hit an explosive device. He was deployed with the 1775th Military Police Company, Pontiac, Michigan.
“These heroes represent the best in our Soldiers. We picked one who represented the infantryman and his service weapon, the rifle, and one who one who represented the military police and their combat pistol,” said Menard. “Both were heroes who died fighting for our great country.”
The winners of the Governors 20 go on to compete in Marksmanship Advisory Council competitions sponsored by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Servicemembers can compete for points during the MAC competitions that can culminate in the participation in the Winston P. Wilson National Guard Championship and other national trophy matches.
For some of the competitors, the events were an opportunity to hone skills that they use on a regular basis. “I shoot USPSA [U.S. Practical Shooting Association] as much as I can and I put in a home range, so I usually use my pistol often. For practice with my rifle I spend time at a civilian range with my buddies,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Driscoll, Company D, 125th Infantry Regiment, Big Rapids, Michigan, Michigan Army National Guard.
For others, this was a great reminder of how important regular practice can be.
“I wish I would have practiced more now that I am here, but it’s a great experience. Earning the tab would be awesome but just getting to come and shoot and train is great. I will take what I learned today and prepare for next year,” said Cadet Lindsay Poikey, Forward Support Company, 507th Engineer Battalion, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Michigan Army National Guard.
The Governors 20 is a joint event that brings together Soldiers and Airmen from throughout the state for a rare opportunity to compete against each other in the most basic servicemember skillset.
“I would love to earn the tab, but I really just enjoy coming and shooting and competing and the SARTS team really does a great job,” said Master Sgt. Brian Czerniak, 110th Attack Wing, Battle Creek, Michigan, Michigan Air National Guard.
“The cross-training that happens with the Army and Air Guard during the competition is just as important to us as cross-training with any of our partner nations,” said Discher. “Sharing that knowledge and experience with the other branches of services is always a positive thing.”
Many Soldiers and Airmen return year after year to maintain their skills and attempt to earn the tab. “This is my fourth year, it is a little different each year, but always worth it. The more trigger time the better shooter you become,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Parson, 507th Engineer Battalion, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Michigan Army National Guard. “It’s just an awesome event to share knowledge and train the trainer so you can take back these skills to your unit. I always encourage all of my Soldiers to come.”
The 2015 Governors 20 tab recipients are:
Kevin Taylor*, 110th Civil Engineer Squadron
Anthony Gazvoda*, Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center
Benjamin Driscoll, Company D, 125th Infantry Regiment
David Smith*, 1431st Engineer Company
Jacob Schrot, Troop C, 126th Cavalry Regiment
Marcus Smith*, Company B, 125th Infantry Regiment
Darin Schultz*, Troop B, 126th Cavalry Regiment
Cameron Brauer, Forward Support Company, 182nd Field Artillery
Ryan Lanting, Company D, 237th Brigade Support Battalion
Gregory Padilla*, Troop C, 126th Cavalry Regiment
James Crump, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 507th Engineer Battalion
Kyle Geitzen, Company C, 125th Infantry Regiment
Nicholas Peters, Troop C, 126th Cavalry Regiment
John Hirzel*, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 125th Infantry Regiment
Darryl Gazzeny, Company A, 125th Infantry Regiment
Jason Parsons, Forward Support Company, 507th Engineer Battalion
Nathan Droptiny, 110th Air Attack Wing
Robert Garcia, Troop C, 126th Cavalry Regiment
Timothy Moreno, Company C, 125th Infantry Regiment
Kenneth Boyd, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 126th Cavalry Regiment
Wayne Edmonson, Troop B, 126th Cavalry Regiment
Joshua Radi, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 126th Cavalry Regiment
Trent Marnell, 1776th Military Police Company
Paul Nickelson, Recruiting and Retention Battalion
*indicates a tab received for both the pistol and rifle events