ROBINSON MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ark. – Thirty-two National Guard soldiers representing 11 states competed in the 47th Annual Winston P. Wilson (WPW) Machine Gun Championship hosted by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center (NGMTC) at Robinson Maneuver Training Center, Ark. from April 15-21.
The Machine Gun Championship is one of several events included in the Winston P. Wilson Championship, a prestigious marksmanship competition that tests the skills of some of the finest military marksmen in the world.
Michigan National Guard won the title of overall team champions and Chiefs 50, taking home a combined 29 awards between two, two-man teams and proving their mettle for the second year in a row. Michigan takes marksmanship seriously and provides their teams training prior to the matches, but when facing the top marksmen from around the nation, nothing is to be expected.
“This is my second time winning this. We came down last year and had absolutely no idea what we were doing or what we were in for,” said Sgt. David Dohnal with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment and winner of the Top Machine Gunner award. “We came down here and we did a whole lot better than I thought we were going to do. I actually had no idea that I was going to win until the awards ceremony.”
The competitions are conducted under the directive of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to help improve the effectiveness of National Guard Soldiers. Competitions like these help inspire Soldiers to advance their skills in an experience-rich environment that is both challenging and enjoyable.
“What we’re trying to accomplish with the match is to develop an improved standard of marksmanship amongst National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, and to allow them to compete with each other and learn from each other,” said Air Force Capt. Barry Owens, Air National Guard Program Manager for the Marksmanship Training Center. “Because everybody has experience that they can share when they come here and everyone picks up some new ideas and training value.”
The collection of skills available at the competition ensures that everyone gains important weapons skills to take back to their units, whether they’re new or experienced. Every year the Marksmanship Training Center works to improve their matches and the advanced training that they can offer Soldiers and Airmen.
“I think they stepped it up this year … it was a little bit more competitive this year than it was last year,” said Dohnal. “I’ve really enjoyed myself. There was no hesitation to come back.”
Newcomers and younger Soldiers are encouraged to attend the matches in order to help build knowledge and expertise that can be disseminated throughout the National Guard. The Marksmanship Training Center offers a free-flow of professional knowledge comprised of years of experience between leadership and cadre alike.
“The vast majority of [cadre] are SAW-E qualified. They went to Small Arms Weapons Expert course, so they know quite a bit and they can teach you a lot,” said Spc. Aaron Newton, a Combat Engineer with Company A, 239th Brigade Engineer Battalion. “Especially 1st Sgt. Marchand, Master Sgt. Lindsey, and Maj. Stapp. All of them are very knowledgeable and can teach you a lot as long as you’re willing to listen.”
Many of the competitors and cadre look forward to next year’s Machine Gun Championship and add to the wealth of knowledge that the National Guard has to offer – and perhaps send a few more rounds down range.
“Come out here. Have fun,” said Dohnal. “You’re getting paid to shoot machine guns. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
WPW Machine Gun Match Overall Team
Champions: Sgt. David Dohnal and Cpl. Nolan Davis, Michigan National Guard, Team Alpha
Overall 2nd place: Staff Sgt. Noah Matthews and Sgt. Nathan Forrest, Alabama National Guard, Team Alpha
Overall 3rd place: Staff Sgt. Thomas Davis and Cpl. Michael Parris, Colorado National Guard, Team Alpha
WPW Machine Gun Match Top Machine Gunner
Champion: Sgt. David Dohnal, Michigan National Guard Team Alpha
2nd place: Sgt. Nicholas Peters, Michigan National Guard, Team Bravo
3rd place: Sgt. Maximil Archambault, Vermont National Guard, Team Alpha
WPW Machine Gun Match Top Assistant Gunner
Champion: Sgt. Jared Parahm, Michigan National Guard, Team Bravo
2nd place: Cpl. Nolan Davis, Michigan National Guard, Team Alpha
3rd place: Staff Sgt. Kyle McRae, Vermont National Guard, Team Bravo