Guardsman Trains Next Generation Of Shooters
CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE, CORTLANDT MANOR, N.Y., June 21, 2017 — For New York Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Michael Kapela, his seventh Adjutant General’s Combat Sustainment Training Exercise — known as the “TAG Match” — was more meaningful than his first.
Ten years ago, Kapela, who has served in the Guard for 16 years, won a clean sweep of all the events during his first TAG Match, and he has since competed twice at regional National Guard shooting matches and once at the national level.
This year — the 38th time the TAG Match has been held — he took top honors in the individual rifle match and was also part of the rifle team that won first place. Helping the team from his unit, the 152nd Engineer Support Company, earn first place in the rifle marksmanship event is what made this time around special, Kapela said.
Training for the match was an opportunity to teach marksmanship skills while learning new tips and techniques from other service members, he explained. Kapela added that he’s not in the competition for the trophy or the recognition; he’s in it to help the next generation of soldiers.
“There are 101 theories out there on how to be a great shooter, but not everything will work for you,” he said. “It’s about trying and implementing new tips until you get it right, and that’s what the TAG Match gives you an opportunity to do.”
Kapela has a significant amblyopia, or lazy eye, and that would deter most people from pursuing both a hobby and profession that relies heavily on ocular accuracy. But he said it only strengthened his resolve to learn and try even harder.
He said he uses the mantra that his father, a 35-year Army veteran combat engineer, gave to him when he was eight years old: “If you’re going to show someone what you can do, first you need to show them how to get it done.”
Kapela was one of 68 service members who participated in the 38th Annual “TAG Match” Combat Sustainment Training Exercise here from June 1-4.
The TAG Match is a 3-day event conducted by the New York Army National Guard to promote excellence in marksmanship training and offers soldiers and airmen the opportunity to test their skills and weapon systems in a battle-focused environment.
Members of the New York Naval Militia and the New York Guard, the state’s volunteer self-defense forces, are also invited to participate in the competition.
These skills and techniques are forged during four high-tempo and high-pressure marksmanship events, each designed to test the knowledge of weapon systems and accuracy during battle-like conditions.
The four advanced marksmanship events are the Sgt. Henry Johnson Individual Combat Rifle Match, the Sgt. Reidar Waaler Team Combat Rifle Match, the Sgt. Thomas Baker Individual Combat Pistol Match, and the Lt. Col. William Donovan Team Combat Pistol Match.
Each event is named in honor of a past Medal of Honor recipient from New York Army National Guard units.
The matches are a mix of both team and individual timed events that combine three different firing positions, quick movements to varying locations and short sprints, all of which simulate combat scenarios.
Aside from improved marksmanship techniques, one of the benefits to participating in the TAG Match is that everyone from the supporting staff to the competitors gets a chance to network with peers outside of their military branches.
Collaboration Builds Relationships
Sgt. Michael Ryan, a soldier with the New York Army National Guard’s 827th Horizontal Engineer Company, has been a part of the TAG Match support staff in the past and was a competitor this year.
“The best asset that staff and participants come away with is the people,” said Ryan. “There’s soldiers, airmen and militia competing together; we’ll end up working together and seeing each other out there when responding to state active duty missions.”
The collaboration at the TAG Match helps to build relationships among competitors, while the peer instruction and coaching allows soldiers to hone their craft and bring new knowledge to their units.
“The TAG Match trains soldiers to first gain individual proficiency and then gauge proficiency in others,” said Maj. Christopher Culpepper, the officer-in-charge of the TAG Match and deputy operations officer of the 53rd Troop Command. “This is an important skill that improves every level of the organization from the individual Soldier to the unit and ultimately the New York National Guard.”
The overall match champion, based on a summary of scoring across all categories, was the team from the New York Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment.
[Source: By Army Staff Sgt. Michael Davis/New York Army National Guard/US DoD -/- Media Relations]
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