While Fort Benning might be (make that "is") The Home of Champions, this past weekend the indoor ranges at Smith & Wesson
severed as the home of, well, future Admirals and Generals.
Shooters from all four schools gather outside the S&W ranges before tackling the 9 stage course of fire. Photo by P. Erhardt
S&W once again played host to the Joint Service Academy Combat Weapons Championship (JSACWC), bringing together the shooting teams from the United States Coast Guard Academy, the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy and the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University.
CWO Chad Barber of the USCGA gives his team some advice before they start the competition, reminding them they are there to have fun. Photo by P. Erhardt
Though limited by the boundaries of an indoor range, the nine stage match tested the shooting skills of the cadets and midshipmen with pistol, rifle and shotgun scenarios designed by members of the match staff.
Members of the West Point team load up their mags before hitting the range...and ammo availability didn't seem to be an issue. Photo by P. Erhardt
The Coast Guard shooters listen on as the Safety Officer reads them the scenario and accompanying shooting procedure for their first stage. Photo by P. Erhardt
Staffing the JSACWC is always easy for Smith & Wesson as it pulls in many of those that worked the S&W IDPA Indoor Nationals just a month earlier. Among those working the match was Phil Torres, one of 'Uncle Sam's Misguided Children' (Ret) and a Safety Officer who is held in high regard...and not just for his own decorated service on behalf of our nation.
A man who knows a thing or two about combat, Phil Torres, USMC (Ret.), keeps a close eye on the this new generation of warriors. Photo by P. Erhardt
Adapt, improvise and overcome wasn't lost on these young shooters as clothespins served as chamber flags - or what Team S&W's Jerry Miculek my call "putting the Wal-Mart on the gun." Photo by P. Erhardt
One of the most colorful stages to watch in the match called on the cadets and midshipmen to kick in a door and retrieve a wounded buddy all while taking on a host of targets with both a pick-up AK and their own AR-15. Those staffing the stage had to remind the shooters, on more than one occasion, that it wouldn't take much to open the door so kicking it off its hinges wasn't really necessary.
West Point was always having to pull its punches (or kicks) to keep from destroying the stage door. Photo by P. Erhardt
Navy had no issues when it came time to retrieve their wounded buddy. Photo by P. Erhardt
Despite the obvious rivalries that exist between the academies - most notably that between Army and Navy - shooters often found themselves working together as squads were made up of representatives of multiple schools.
Teamwork is often the key to success at the JSACWC, not unlike it is in the real world for America's future military leaders. Photo by P. Erhardt
There's no rule against collaborating with the enemy at the JSACWC, especially when your enemy is really your brother in arms. Photo by P. Erhardt
Everybody wants to win, but nobody wants to do it at the expense of unfair advantage over their fellow academies. Honor and sportsmanship are the coin of the realm among this group of shooters, and you are not likely to see it valued as highly as you do the competitions that bring these schools together. It's unfortunate that these schools cannot participate in more shooting competitions as they have a lot to teach to even the most experienced shooters.
Just like at every shooting match on earth, shooters gather around the posted scores confirm their finish and who won. Photo by P. Erhardt
In the end it was Navy back on top, successfully defending their 2012 JSACWC win with a final time of 1820.26 seconds. But it was no cakewalk as Army finished just 4.22 seconds behind in second place with 1824.48. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy took third with 1972.03 while Texas A&M, in what was their first major 3-gun match and a year ahead of their planned entry into the discipline, finished fourth with 2007.21.
Captains of the four schools' shooting teams come together for a photo before returning to their respective campuses. Photo by P. Erhardt
The highlight of the match - except for maybe Navy beating Army, of course - was the awards banquet and Smith & Wesson's invited guest speaker, Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Sammy Davis, USA (Ret.).
Sgt. Sammy Davis personally greeted every cadet and midshipmen as they entered the banquet hall, handing each a challenge coin commemorating this year's championship match. Photo by P. Erhardt
His story of heroism and unfailing courage in the face of overwhelming odds will stop you in your tracks. It's hard to believe that one man could be so strong when so much was thrown at him and his fellow soldiers, but that's the story of Sammy Davis.
That night he shared with the cadets and midshipmen the lesson he learned in Vietnam. And this is, you only lose when you quit trying. Pretty good lesson, especially from somebody who knows nothing about quitting.
The U.S. Naval Academy celebrates once again as winners of the 2013 JSACWC. Photo by P. Erhardt
And it's something to think about until next year when the the U.S. Naval Academy will again face the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University and all other comers in the 2014 Joint Service Academy Combat Weapons Championship.
- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network
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