CAMP WILLIAMS — In recent years, Utah National Guard soldiers have spent a lot of time training, and many of them have been deployed more than once. But being in the Guard isn't all work.

About 50 soldiers from five states competed this weekend in the Marksmanship Area Competition Region IIV Championships at Camp Williams. Teams from Colorado, California, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah competed this year.

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Cartwright told a soldier Saturday that his primary obligation that day was "mostly, be safe. And then, have fun."

"If they aren't having fun, they aren't going to excel," he said.

Soldiers competed in pistol, light-machine gun, rifle and sniper categories on Saturday. In the 9-mm "patent" match, four-man teams fire at six targets after a 100-yard run that leaves them winded. The most points are given for hitting in the bulls-eye, a diameter about the size of a soccer ball. Shots are fired in three rounds, at 25 yards, 20 yards, then 15 yards. Each person has just 51 rounds, so he will have to change magazines part way through a round.

The POW match is another four-man team where the shooter fires an M240 machine gun at a target. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Miller explained that in this case, two members of the team go after ammunition while the other two shoot at the target. Each must fire in a specific pattern, and each shape on the target represents a soldier, a junior leader, a senior leader or a POW. Points are given accordingly, with the two POWs on each of the four grids being the prize hit.

Dave Hammel and Shane Hagermann are members of the Utah National Guard 19th Special Forces Group who competed in the sniper competition. Hammel has his finger on the trigger, but according to Chief Warrant Officer John Wester, it is the spotter — or Hagermann in this case — who ultimately has control.

"The gunner does exactly what the spotter tells him to do," Wester said.

The spotter collects information about the size of the target, how far away it is and the wind speed. The spotter is trained to use a number of resources to measure wind speed by eye, including a mirage in the heat, or sometimes a wind flag. This, said Wester, with some fancy math — "the angle of the dangle (of the flag) divided by four" allowed the spotter to tell the gunner how to set his rifle accordingly. "As soon as the bullet leaves the muzzle, it is dropping," explained Wester. "So if you don't make adjustments for the wind, it can blow the bullet off course."

For this competition, snipers are firing at 10 different targets, at 300 meters and 800 meters (one half mile). Wester said he knows of a case in Afghanistan where a sniper hit a target at 2,600 meters.

While this weekend's competition is in the spirit of fun, it still has a training element to it.

"Some of us have been deployed, and some of us will be again," Wester said.

Awards were handed out Saturday evening to winners for each category. Competition will continue today with the Excellence in Competition match.


E-mail: amacavinta@desnews.com