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By Sgt. Nathaniel Free
utah National Guard
It’s one thing for a Soldier to accurately shoot a target with a pistol at a range of 50 yards. It’s significantly more difficult to hit that same target with a heart rate more than 150 beats per minute after running through a winding desert arroyo, carrying a 150-pound sandbag, or climbing a 25-foot-high rope.
That’s what the Tactical Games is all about.
“The Tactical Games is a unique venue,” said 1st Sgt. Kirk Holmer, a member of the All Guard Marksmanship Team from the Utah National Guard. “It offers a blending of high-intensity physical fitness and marksmanship.”
All Guard Marksmanship Team claimed top honors at the Tactical Games, hosted at the North Springs Shooting Range in Price, Utah, Aug. 29-30, 2020. The Tactical Games is an open competition where shooter-athletes must accomplish physically demanding, combat-related tasks within certain time constraints.
“There’s no way to shoot your way to victory, and there’s no way to ‘fitness’ your way to victory,” explained Holmer. “It has to be a combination of the two.”
The competition also provided a way for National Guard members to identify weaknesses in their overall fitness and put their gear to the test in an austere environment.
“We need to start thinking about overmatch,” Holmer said. “How can we overmatch our near peers and our opponents in our current theaters of operation? Our peers are slowly but surely catching up with us on technology, but we don’t have control of that as an individual Soldier in our day-to-day lives. We have control of our lifestyle, our physical fitness, our marksmanship training, and our weapons manipulation skills. That’s what competition is for.”
The All Guard Marksmanship Team was pitted against their civilian peers who were in peak physical fitness and highly confident with weapon systems.
“You get to find out where you stack up in the equation,” Holmer said.
Holmer took second place in the Elite class by a margin of a few points.
“I’ve done a lot of fitness and I’ve done a lot of shooting, but I’ve never really molded them together like this,” said 2nd Lt. David Merritt, a member of the All Guard Marksmanship Team from the California National Guard. “It’s a great opportunity to get out here, get your heart rate up, and then shoot. It helps identify a lot of your weaknesses.”
Merritt and the other members of their team intend to take what they have learned back to their units to help mentor other Soldiers on how to shoot, move and communicate under stress.
“This competition has been very humbling,” Merritt admitted. “The altitude and the cardio have been some of the biggest challenges, especially trying to mitigate that while shooting.”
The All Guard Marksmanship Team usually competes in Three Gun competitions, which incorporate a series of short, sprint-style events. While Three Gun competitions are never easy, the Tactical Games elevates this concept to the next level.
“This competition tests you in every high-stress situation you could think of,” said 1st Lt. Tim Buckner, a member of the All Guard Marksmanship Team from the Oklahoma National Guard. “It taxes you physically, mentally, and then you’re required to make precision shots during that taxation.”
According to the official website, the Tactical Games requires the fitness level of “a professional athlete, with the tactical and technical skills of the best tactical operatives in the world.”
“We’re responsible for responding to chaotic situations,” Buckner said. “We have to be at the top of our physical fitness and marksmanship training in order to function in high-stress situations and be lethal if needed.”
Members of the Utah National Guard claimed the following top honors at the competition:
Lt. Col. Brandon Holmer placed first in Master class, and placed first overall.
Col. Bruce Roberts placed fourth in Master class.
1st Sgt. Kirk Holmer placed second in Elite class, and fourth overall.
Sgt. Peter Riddle placed third in Intermediate class.
According to Kirk Holmer, the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center has been considering a tactical team to compete in similar events in the future, to better align with the Army’s renewed focus on fitness and lethality.
If Utah Guard members are interested in improving their marksmanship and lethality through competition shooting, Holmer encourages them to reach out to their state’s Small Arms Readiness Training Section to learn more.
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