Air Rifle Competition
The Fighting Sioux Battalion made its debut appearance at the Gateway Battalion Rifle Competition in 2009 and took second place after just one and a half weeks of practice. The next year, they dominated with a 200 point spread between them and the second place team. With a record as bright as it is brief, hopes were high for the 2011 competition. For the cadets of the Fighting Sioux Battalion shooting team, the afternoon of January 20th was as cold as the North Dakota winter gets, but the air was electric with anticipation. Fourteen cadets were charged with continuing the Fighting Sioux legacy of excellence and dominance. As duffle bags and iPods were loaded into the vans, jokes were exchanged and the mood was light, but underneath it all, each cadet felt the weight of upholding the dynasty.
For these determined young individuals, this competition was far more than driving fifteen hours for one hour of shooting. This competition started weeks ago for them. The coach and team captain, Cadet Brenna Goodman, began holding practices before the fall semester was out for Christmas. Cadet Goodman is a long time participant in Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) competitions, and was at one point ranked ninth in the nation. Her experience and leadership has proven invaluable throughout the entire training process. “Everything I have to offer to this program, I learned from my time in CMP.” She says. “The first year we participated was just a trial. We learned about the layout of the competition, and what the targets looked like. We gained the experience needed to know how to train to win…the process of training the team has become more and more stress free because I’ve done it before.” When asked what tactics she used to train the team, Cadet Goodman said, “Essentially I teach the three basic positions [standing, kneeling, and prone] then as the cadets practice and gain proficiency, I identify problem areas such as trigger pull or sight picture and I help the cadet to work through them.”
For many of the cadets, competition can be a nerve wracking ordeal. They train for weeks, and shoot thousands of rounds in preparation for this one chance. Cadet Goodman explained some of the tricks and tips she uses to relax before a match. “I pick a song, usually one that I hear on the radio that day and I sing it over and over in my head. Also, it helps to remember that everyone here is just as nervous as we are, and probably even more so, because they all know we are champions.”
The competition has been held for six consecutive years, and it has been sanctioned by the CMP since the onset in 2005 according to Master Sergeant Voller, the NCOIC for the Gateway Battalion Air Rifle Competition. He goes on to explain that it began as a vision of Lieutenant Colonel Wilson, former Professor of Military Science at Washington University and the former Executive Officer, Major Callis. They had a number of precision air rifles from previous years and MSG Voller was tasked with creating a training regimen for the cadets, and putting together a competition among the neighboring ROTC programs. The initial years were small, only a few universities competed, but when the National Rifle Association gave the Gateway Battalion a large grant, they were able to outfit their range to accommodate much greater numbers. This year, ten schools from North Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Illinois participated with a total of 108 cadets.
When asked about the benefit a competition like this gives to a future leader, MSG Voller had this to say, “…it gives them a leg up on the intricacies of using the four fundamentals of rifle marksmanship (position, sight picture, breathing, and trigger squeeze) and allow[s] them to lead by example. When these cadets become platoon leaders, they can give a firsthand account of how they learned to become better marksmen and pass along that advice to their peers and subordinates.”
The Fighting Sioux Battalion went on to win the competition again this year by a thirty point spread. Cadet Goodman took the Top Standing Score, as well as Top Overall Score. Cadet Laura Van Hout, a junior in the FSB, took the Top Kneeling Score. Overall, Cadet Goodman, as well as the rest of the team, feels very satisfied with the results considering all the time and effort they put into the competition. Goodman said, “I feel very proud of the team because they worked hard and everyone did the best they could. We had a lot of fun.”
However, the Fighting Sioux Battalion, like the Army itself, is greater than any one person. It is the responsibility of each leader to not only train their subordinates, but also to teach them how to carry on the tradition of excellence when he or she moves on. This was Cadet Goodman’s last year competing. She will, however, coach again next year. When asked about her plan to train her successor before she leaves, she said, “Next year, I’ll choose a sophomore to be the coach, and I will teach them what I have learned. It’s really important to me that the team continue to do well. I will do everything I can to make sure that happens. The biggest thing is they just need to keep that winners’ mentality.”
Being a recent graduate of the Fighting Sioux Battalion, and former rifle team member, I am well acquainted with its legacy of excellence. I know these cadets put in a phenomenal amount of effort every day to be the best at whatever they do. Whether it is natural talent, the effects of hard work and training, or as Cadet Goodman put it: that winner’s mentality, these cadets will not settle for anything less than the best.
Written by: 2LT Holt