News: New York Army and Air National Guard members to represent United States in South African shooting competition
Story by Eric Durr
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -Ten members of the New York Army and Air National Guard will represent the United States at a marksmanship competition in South Africa next month.
Five members of the New York Army National Guard's 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry--who train in Buffalo and Niagara Falls-- and five members of the New York Air National Guard from across the state, will spend half of March in Bloemfontein, South Africa participating in the South African Army Rifle Competition.
The event begins March 4 and runs through March 15.
Teams from other African and North Atlantic Treaty Organization
militaries are invited to compete in the event along with Active Duty and Reserve component forces of the South African National Defense Force.
The New York National Guard has a training and exchange partnership with the South African National Defense Force through the National Guard's State Partnership Program. The program pairs state National Guard's with militaries in Eastern Europe and the developing world. New York and South Africa have been partnered since 2003.
"We are proud that soldiers and airmen of the New York National Guard will be representing the United States military at this international marksmanship competition," said Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy, the adjutant general of New York.
"The New York National Guard has a great relationship with the South African National Defense Force which we've built through repeated visits and training exchanges like this one over the past decade. I know our soldiers and airmen will do a great job of representing New York and the United States and strengthen our relationship even more," Murphy said.
New York Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Edward Stefik, the team manager, said he’s taught marksmanship to soldiers from Kuwait, Iraq and Bahrain, and now he’s looking forward to working with the South African military.
He’s also looking forward to participating in the event with New York Army Guard soldiers, Stefik added.
“I am seeing one team, one fight,” he said. “Everything is joint service and joint operations when we deploy, and this is the same thing.”
Stefik, a Lewiston, N.Y., resident and a member of the 107th Security Forces Squadron at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, has won several shooting competitions and is a New York State Troop in civilian life.
New York Army National Guard Lt. Thomas Beach, a Buffalo, N.Y., resident, and the joint Army and Air Guard team’s captain, said he’s looking forward to learning new marksmanship techniques from the South Africans.
Beach, an 11-year veteran of the Army who served in Iraq with the famous 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, is the signals officer for the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry and target shoots as a hobby.
The New York Guard soldiers and airmen haven’t had time to practice together for the match, Beach said.
The soldiers are all from the same unit, but there’s no nearby range they can easily train on, he said. Instead they have been relying on the electronic Engagement Skills Trainer to hone their skills he said.
The Air Guard members come from wings scattered across New York, from Long Island to Niagara Falls, so they have had no chance to train together at all, Stefik said. But the Guard airmen have all had plenty of hands on experience with their weapons in deployment, he added.
The men are Joint Tactical Air Ground Controllers (JTAC), or security forces members, Stefik said. One man—Staff Sgt. Matt Zimmer—is a para-rescue jumper from the 106th Rescue Wing who recently received a Bronze Star for valor for a 2012 mission in Afghanistan.
“All these guys have operated in real world mission,” Stefik said. “ They’re throwing us together but I think it is going to work out really well.”
Participants in the shooting match use the South African R-4 Rifle. The weapon fires a 5.56 millimeter round similar to that fired by the American M-4. However, the American shooters will need to get used to a different sighting system and the different feel of the South African rifle, Stefik said.
The bullet also uses a different grain of powder which will influence the trajectory of the round, added Beach. This means the Americans will have to get used to that as well, he said.
Army National Guard 1st Lt. Wesley Roberts, the assistant operations officer for the 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry, said he and the other team members are really looking forward to meeting soldiers from Africa and other allied nations.
“It’s an absolutely great opportunity,” he said. “It’s the only time I have seen something like this in the military.”
This is the second time a New York National Guard Team has participated in this competition. An eight-Soldier New York National Guard team finished in fourth place during the 2011 competition.
Guard members participating in the event are:
• Army National Guard 1st Lt. Thomas Beach, Buffalo;
• Army National Guard 1st Lt. Roberts Wesley, Lockport;
• Army National Guard 1st Lt. Sean Lucas, Buffalo;
• Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Nicholas Hare, Tonawanda;
• Army National Guard Sgt. Ryan Campbell, Cheektowaga;
• Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Edward Stefik, Lewiston;
• Air National Guard Master Sgt. Jose Pena-Rojas, Mount Kisco;
• Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Kevin Weatherby, Cohoes;
• Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Matthew Rossen, Fabius;
• Air National Guard Staff Sgt, Matthew Zimmer, Westhampton
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