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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland


NEWS

ARKANSAS SKILL AT ARMS EXPERIENCE FOR 40 (NIH) SIGNAL SQUADRON

06 June 2018

Sergeant Colin "Flash" Gordon from 40 (NIH) Signal Squadron gives an account of his experience at the US Armed Forces Skill at Arms meeting in Arkansas:

Each year the Arkansas National Guard invites the Army Rifle Association to send 12 of their best shots from the Army Reserve to compete in their Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting held at Camp J T Robinson, North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Following the Force Troops Command Operational Shooting Competition (FTC OSC) and the Army Reserve Operational Shooting Competition (AR OSC), a long list of 33 potential candidates was drawn up for training and selection.  This year for 32 Sig Regt, myself and Cpl John Colgan made the list after qualifying at FTC OSC with a first and second place. 

Our first zeroing weekend was in Nov 17 on Pirbright Ranges.  We were required to attend one training session per month to practice the various matches that are fired during the competition and to familiarise ourselves with the US words of command.  By Feb 18 the 12 candidates had been selected and to our relief we had made the team.  The successful 12 are known as British Army Reserve Operational Shooting Team (BAROST).  Going by our scores in training, we are then broken down into 3 teams of 4 - Red, White and Blue teams.  I was selected to lead the new guys in the Blue team and share my experience from last year.

On 22 Apr 18 it was up at 4am for an early morning 9 hour flight from Heathrow to Houston Texas and a connecting flight to Little Rock; we eventually arrived at Camp Robinson having been travelling for almost 18 hours.  We had the Monday to sort our kit and prep for the practice week which is used to train the new range team on the timings and format of the shoots.

During the competition, we are required to fire several Rifle and Pistol matches which reflect the type of shooting likely to be experienced on operations. It also encourages international cooperation in the military and for service members to test their marksmanship skills.  In addition to the shooting, there is also the opportunity to interact with our coalition partners with a few social nights and to experience the great culture which the State of Arkansas had to offer.

Saturday was a day off and several of us were treated to a tour of the State Capital Building.  After lunch we were free to visit the malls, sports shops and gun stores.



On 29 Apr, General Joseph L Lengyel welcomed all the competitors before firing the opening shot allowing the competition to get under way with temperatures reaching 31 degrees Celsius.

Over the 5 days 81 teams from the various National Guard units representing 42 states and territories meet to compete in the United States military’s largest marksmanship competition, with 36 international shooters from Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom taking part.  This year was the 27th AFSAM event and comprised a total of 14 small arms matches - both teams and individuals fired with rifle and pistol; shoots to test marksmanship skills from 25yds back to 500yds.

The Bianchi Battle is one of the more challenging matches which tests teamwork and leadership.  Teams start from the prone position before sprinting 100 yards to the 300yd firing point.  As a team, you engage the five fig12 targets from right to left ensuring you have 5 hits on each before they disappear at 5 second intervals after 40 seconds.  Speed, accuracy and a good fire plan are essential to score maximum points and get the bonus points for effective fire.  Another sprint to 200yds saw fig12 targets engaged this time from the sitting position.  At 100yds it was a transition to shotgun and pistol, all tightly timed to test each firer’s speed and accuracy.  Other demanding shoots included the barricade match, anti body armour and reflexive fire where exposure timings are very tightly controlled by a loud horn and very observant safety staff.  Time pressures and the scoring rings only being 8 inches across in these matches meant there was no room for error.

The final day is the International Match which is usually a closely fought shoot between ourselves and the Canadians. Unfortunately, this year the Americans took the trophy.  There were several prizes won by the red and white team, with the blue team a close fourth in the Bianchi Battle.

This was an excellent opportunity for the two of us to shoot together in America with many great memories from the experience, thanks to the support from the PSAO and staff at 40 Sig Sqn.