Maj. Gen. James K. Brown, left, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army National Guard, awards 1st Lt. Spencer Ellis, third from right, and Pfc. Dalton Hall, right, both 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers, the Meritorious Service Medal for winning the M17 pistol and M249 light machine gun marksman titles, respectively, at U.S. Army Forces Command Marksmanship Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., on Oct 26, 2018. (U.S. Army Photo by Capt. Ed Robles)
Mountain Warriors from Fort Drum dominate
U.S. Army Forces Command Marksmanship Competition
Capt. Ed Robles
1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI)
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 11, 2018) – The 10th Mountain Division’s marksmanship team, composed of 1st Brigade Combat Team Soldiers, went beyond the basics of steady breathing, site alignment and trigger pull when they dominated the annual U.S. Army Forces Command Marksmanship Competition, Oct. 22-26, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The “Warrior Brigade” top guns won two of three individual weapons titles and defeated all active-duty Army teams, finishing second overall.
First Lt. Spencer Ellis, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, and Pfc. Dalton Hall, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, won the M17 pistol and M249 light machine gun marksman titles, respectively. Spc. Matthew Devall, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, represented the division's M4 carbine category.
“This is a validation of what I worked hard for,” said Ellis, who first learned the importance of marksmanship from his father, Samuel Ellis, during childhood hunting trips in Wyoming.
“It was good father-and-son time,” Ellis said. “My father would say ‘respect your weapon and don’t point it at anything you don’t intend to kill or destroy.’”
His father’s advice inspired a passion for marksmanship that led Ellis to join the U.S. Military Academy’s Combat Weapons Team.
“As an infantry officer, being a member of that team was one of the best influences on my life,” Ellis said.
Fast forward to his assignment at 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), where Ellis and Hall won the division’s competition and were temporarily attached to Fort Drum’s Light Fighters School to prepare for the FORSCOM event.
“My battalion’s training and Light Fighters School coaching took me to the next level,” Hall said. “I never shot a machine gun before coming to Fort Drum, and now everyone knows I’m not your average SAW (squad automatic weapon) gunner.”
“Competition is important because it breeds excellence,” said Staff Sgt. John Brady, Division Competitions noncommissioned officer in charge at the Light Fighters School. “Our primary job is to close in and destroy the enemy. This skillset is not just for competition’s sake. It’s for us to be more lethal on the battlefield.”
Ellis and Hall attributed their victories to Brady’s intense, well-rounded, two-month training regimen.
“Beating out tough divisions like 101st Airborne, 82nd Airborne and 1st Cavalry feels great,” Hall said.
Hall recalled narrowly defeating a competitor who wore a Governors Twenty tab. The tab distinguishes National Guardsmen who are among the top 20 marksmen in their state. “He was right on me, but I kept hitting my targets and held him off."
The event lanes were designed to put competitors through stressful battle conditions.
“The CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense) day shoot was the toughest,” Hall said. “My head was canted at a 90-degree angle, and my weapon was canted at 45 degrees just so I could aim through my pro mask.”
“The shoot house was my favorite part of the competition,” Ellis said. “It had six to seven rooms of armed bad guy targets and unarmed innocents. We had to be mentally quick and think on our feet in order to stand a chance in there.”
Both Soldiers highlighted the importance of meeting competitors throughout FORSCOM.
“It was great to branch out and immerse ourselves with like-minded competition,” Ellis said.
Opponents learned that 1st BCT, 10th Mountain Division (LI), provides marksmen who are among the Armywide favorites to win at the U.S. Army Small Arms Competition in March.
“These FORSCOM wins show that 10th Mountain Division is leading the way in marksmanship across the Army,” Brady said.
“The bottom line is lethality,” Hall said. “When we’re deployed, we need to be great marksmen to fight for our buddies at our right and left.”
That bottom line is an integral part of 1st BCT’s “Climb to Glory” and why their war-trained Soldiers always rise “To the Top.”