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Not Just a Shooting Match 
2009 Annual Marksmanship Competition Fort Devens 
Spc. Tighe Spady of the 110th Maintenance Company, Massachusetts Army National Guard, takes aim on his targets while competing on the rifle range during the Northeast Regional Marksmanship Competition. The match took place September 10-13, 2009 at Fort Devens, Mass. (U.S. Army photo by Steve Tedeschi)
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Steve Tedeschi, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 

Fort Devens, Mass. - For some Soldiers the Northeast Marksmanship Competition held at Fort Devens, annually, can be a shooting match to compete regionally. 

The competition was held over a four-day period from Sept. 10-13, 2009. A few Soldiers believed the rain kept some individuals from competing. The inclement weather slowed down the competition at times, from wetting down the targets, and making the scoring difficult for the competitors. “If you live in New England, you learn to shoot in every weather condition that there is,” said Sgt. 1st Class Peter Scirpo, Small Arms Readiness Training Section, Joint Force Headquarters, Connecticut National Guard.

Although the number of competitors was down this year from last year due to many units deploying, Sgt. 1st Class Millard Butler, SARTS, Joint Force Headquarters, Vermont National Guard, pistol range noncommissioned officer in charge, and a four-year veteran of the regional match stated, “There is starting to be more participation because we are going to war now. People are realizing they need to stay alive. They need to learn how to shoot. So they now know they need to get into the program instead of sitting back like before."

Soldiers and Airmen are starting to see the competition as an opportunity to sharpen their skills to keep themselves alive if and when they are deployed. “Matches encourage competition, and competition encourages people to do better at what they do,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rocky Richards, SARTS Joint Force Headquarters, New Hampshire National Guard, and rifle range noncommissioned officer in charge.

Sgt. David Hobbs of the 110th Maintenance Company, who competed in the match expressed, “This is extremely important. Most National Guardsmen only get to shoot once a year. As much time, as you can get on the range is important to your fundamentals. Shooting is a perishable skill. If you don’t do it often you will lose whatever you learned the last time you went.”

Spc. Tighe Spady, also from the 110th Maintenance Company, stated, “You can’t go wrong with getting trigger time. The thing about the Guard is everyone gets to shoot once a year. No one gets the trigger time that they really need.”

“Shooting is an important skill,” said Butler, “All the other stuff seems to get a lot of attention, but the bottom line is what brings a Soldier back home to his family is if he gets into a firefight, and able to hit his target. So this is one of the most important skills and I’m glad it is getting a little recognition.”

SARTS organizers of the competition are hoping that the word will get out about the annual match for next year’s competition.  Soldiers and Airmen wanting to compete in the annual event should start preparing in the spring for the fall competition.