MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
A four-man team of Swamp Foxes represented the 169th Fighter Wing in this year's South Carolina National Guard Warfighter Sustainment Training Exercise, better known as the TAG Match.
It was held March 15-17 at the McCrady Training Center, Eastover, S.C. There were nine teams participating, with the number of contestants totaling more than 40 Army and Air National Guard personnel. During the three-day span, the participants competed in 11 events or courses of fire.
"Depending on the course of fire, shooters used a mix of M9 pistols, M4/M16 rifles, M249 automatic rifles, shotguns and grenades," stated 1st Lt. Jonathan Thompson, team member and intelligence officer, 169th Operations Support Flight.
"Because the TAG Match is considered a combat match, shooters wore full battle-rattle and faced a variety of scenarios that required a combination of marksmanship, strategy and fitness to successfully compete in the events," said Thompson.
The events were not as simple as shooting from a stand toward a stationary target. Each was judged based on the team's time and accuracy combined.
"One course of fire required teams to shoot targets from a long distance, then negotiate obstacles, shoot at additional targets and retrieve a fallen comrade on a litter before returning to the starting point," explained Thompson.
The South Carolina Air National Guard has a team comprised of twelve shooters from various career fields.
"We're allotted three teams," stated Maj. Robert Gainous, team captain and intelligence officer, 169th OSF. "Next year we hope to field at least two teams in the competition. It takes four minimum, to make up a team."
Although the Swamp Foxes were only able to field one team this year, the shooters still took second place overall and brought home a notable amount of individual awards.
"Last year, the SCANG fielded three teams and won first and second place overall," said Thompson.
"There were huge expectations to repeat the success of last year," said Staff Sgt. Kenvyn Lewis, 169th Security Forces Squadron. "All eyes were on us, to see how we were finishing events. We were the team to beat."
There was definite rivalry between the services to win but Lewis said a lot of the pressure was self-imposed. "There was a lot of desire to do well to represent the SCANG and bring home another trophy," he added.
"Never let the minimum standard become your highest expectation," said Lewis. "I always aim to shoot a perfect score. I enjoy the challenge of competing with myself to do better than last year and continually improve my performance."
"Up to three to four days before the match, we were still finalizing the plans to compete, coordinating and practicing after shifts," said Lewis. The team was formed from members who competed last year and were able to commit again this year. "Lt. Thompson had just returned a week prior to the competition from being deployed out of the country," he added.
"We pulled the team of four together in the last minute and still took the second place team finish, as well as a number of individual awards. I think we did outstanding," Lewis concluded.
The SCANG members who participated this year were, 1st Lt. Jonathan Thompson, 169th OSF, Master Sgt. Larry Smith, 169th Maintenance Operations Flight, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Vaughn, 169th Communications Flight and Staff Sgt. Kenvyn Lewis, 169th SFS.
The following 2013 TAG Match awards were earned by the SCANG shooting team:
Second Place Team - SCANG
"Top Gun" Service Rifle - Staff Sgt. Kenvyn Lewis
Overall Second Place Individual (Open Class) - Staff Sgt. Kenvyn Lewis
Overall Third Place Individual (Open Class) - Master Sgt. Larry Smith
"Excellence in Competition" Pistol Match Winner - Staff Sgt. Kenvyn Lewis
"Governor's Twenty" Tab - Master Sgt. Larry Smith and Staff Sgt. Kenvyn Lewis