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    Top Iowa marksmen train fellow Red Bulls, Afghans at Torkham Gate

    Top Iowa marksmen train fellow Red Bulls, Afghans at Torkham Gate

    Photo By Master Sgt. Ryan Matson | U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Downs, a supply sergeant and weapons trainer from Tipton,...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson 

    Combined Joint Task Force 101

    NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Two of Iowa’s top guns are working with their fellow soldiers and Afghan counterparts to improve their tactical marksmanship abilities during their yearlong deployment to Afghanistan at Forward Operating Base Torkham Gate.

    U.S. Army Sgt. Martin Ennor, an infantry team leader and his unit’s director of marksmanship, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Downs, a supply sergeant and weapons instructor, have both won the Governor’s 10 Shooting Competition, an annual competition in which military shooters from the Army and Air National Guard, as well as the Army Reserve, compete to determine the 10 best military shooters in the state.

    Ennor, from Parkersburg, Iowa, took the top prize in 2008. Downs, from Tipton, Iowa, did the same in last year’s competition. Now, the two soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, are working to spread their shooting skills and expertise to other members of the company.

    “I like watching the development of each person we train, from where they start out to where they are now,” Downs said. “To me it makes me feel they’ll be safer when they go outside the wire.”

    The soldiers all volunteered for the training, which is usually conducted on their day off, and said the tips Ennor and Downs have shared with them have paid huge dividends in their personal marksmanship abilities.

    “It’s definitely at least doubled my accuracy and I feel more confident that, if we take contact, I know what to do from running the drills,” said U.S. Army Pfc. Richard Reichardt, an infantryman with Company B who has been participating in training sessions led by Ennor and Downs. “I’ve learned more in two months about shooting from them – the mechanics – than I have in the four years I’ve been in the military. Plus you can’t beat free training!”

    Ennor said he and Downs have both been shooting since childhood, having begun in “the average Iowa family hunter kind of way.” They both said shooting calms them down, and helps them to relieve stress.

    Neither marksman began shooting with competition in mind. Ennor said his interest peaked in 2007, when he was returning from a 22-month deployment to Iraq.

    “What really got me into shooting was being a teacher,” he said. “A lot of people say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. You have your shooters, your teachers and your shooters/teachers, the guys who can walk the walk and show people things do work and how they’re done.”

    Ennor, 25, said after returning from Iraq, he was at the demobilization station in Fort McCoy, Wis., when a small-arms readiness group recruiting team was looking for new members. The team trains marksmanship skills to soldiers about to mobilize. Ennor, who obviously loved shooting and met the recruiter’s standard of having consistent high qualification marks at the range, jumped at the chance.

    “It was the opportunity to learn something new and get better,” Ennor said. “So I signed the paperwork and was off to Fort Bragg two weeks after that. They re-taught me how to shoot, completely revamped everything I had known and made me a better shooter.”

    With the SARG training, Ennor earned several certifications through the National Rifle Association. He taught students and worked constantly to improve his schools. His SARG team entered the All-Army Shooting Competition in 2008, a month after Ennor had completed SARG school, and won the overall contest in both the pistol and rifle categories. He also completed numerous civilian and military marksmanship training courses.

    Ennor said the SARG experience deepened his already intense interest in shooting.

    “After [SARG], I knew that working a desk job as a civilian just wasn’t going to work for me,” Ennor said.

    Instead, Ennor decided to completely devote his life to marksmanship training, and started his own business as a personal instructor. In the civilian sector, he now earns his living providing instruction for various military, law enforcement, and civilian clients. It is a passion he shares with his wife, Whitney, who is a female firearms instructor and nursing student in Iowa.

    Downs, meanwhile, started as an infantry soldier and said he just always enjoyed shooting and training. He said his interest in shooting deepened when he decided to try to compete for the Governor’s 10, and has grown from there.

    “I’m more of a shooter than an instructor,” Downs said. “So my training is more ‘do as I do.’ I can show someone an example of how I shoot, and teach them that way.”

    This has come in handy when the pair has taught Afghan students here, as well. Ennor said that Downs is the more patient of the two, which is why Downs has had exceptional success teaching the Afghan Security Group members, who also man the gate with Company B. His patience and examples are often able to compensate for a lack of ability to communicate fully.

    The instructors said they gear their training here toward combat scenarios. Downs said he and Ennor work on various positions beyond the standard prone, kneeling and standing military firing positions.

    “We cover things like the urban prone position, which is basically laying on your side, switching hands and shooting under or over an object, the supine position [shooting from one’s back behind cover], as well as various movement and box drills,” Downs said. “We also focus a lot on communicating while moving and clearing malfunctions with concise movements.”

    Ennor said a lot of the drills came from his SARG training as well as from training he and Downs have had throughout their careers.

    “A lot of people will get up there and say this is what you have to do because the Army has always trained it this way,” Ennor said. “But we not only show soldiers what to do, we show them why. They start utilizing techniques and get good at it, and see that it works.”

    “And we’re not pressing just one way of doing things, because people have different body types and therefore need to manipulate the weapon the way that works best for them. We’re saying, ‘you do what works for you 95 percent of the time, in a way that’s the most efficient, with the least amount of excessive wasted movement.’”

    Downs, 29, said the training they provide is open to any soldier in any job. In fact, he said some of the soldiers who shoot the best are those who have not shot very often, because they have less bad habits to break.

    “If you come in bull-headed, you’re not going to learn anything,” Downs said. “You have to come in being open to learning new things.”

    Ennor said the instructors work with their students on various drills until each one becomes instinctive.

    “We don’t do this to teach people to qualify on an Army range and to zero,” he said. “We do this to teach people lifesaving skills for them to survive in combat. It’s almost primal for them now. These things are engrained into their body and their minds. When they are able to perform these skills under stress, under a time-is-life situation, that’s when you know that it’s been trained to proficiency. It’s not something they can learn from a book or a movie or an instructor. They just have to do it until it is completely engrained in their minds.”

    When Ennor won the Governor’s 10 competition in 2008, the competition was set up differently than when Downs won it last year. In 2008 the top five pistol shooters and the top five rifle shooters earned the right to wear the prestigious Governor’s 10 tab on their military uniforms. Now, the rifle and pistol scores are combined, so only the best 10 overall shooters earn the tab.

    When asked who is the better shot, both soldiers laughed.

    “We don’t even know,” Ennor said. “We both have our individual strengths and weaknesses.”

    “And we don’t want to find out, either,” Downs added, smiling. “We’d be out there shooting for a week!”

    Luckily, the two won’t have to endure that competition. Instead they said they’ll continue to focus on working as a team – a team whose sole goal is to make their fellow soldiers the best shooters possible.



    Date Taken: 03.03.2011
    Date Posted: 03.11.2011 05:31
    Story ID: 66840

    Web Views: 867
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