November 15, 2021 –
CAMP GRAYLING, Mich. – The skies darken over rifle range ten and the lazy breeze suddenly turns blustery as thick snow, the first of the season, begins to blanket Camp Grayling. The last of the shooters pause for the day as the snow and darkness makes visibility nearly impossible to see targets from 500 yards away.
While environmental elements enhance combat readiness, this was not originally intended as a cold weather training event. Initially scheduled for this past September, the Michigan National Guard Governor’s Twenty shooting competition was rescheduled to November 2 - 4, 2021.
About twenty percent of competitors need to stay late the following day to finish up the previous day’s shortened special zero M4 rifle event.
“The Governor’s Twenty features nine individual events consisting of five pistol and four rifle contests,” said Capt. Marshall Halas, Delta Company Commander, 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment and Governor’s Twenty match director. “The Soldiers compete against each other in three matches each of the next three days.”
While day one was shortened by the darkness of a storm, competitors awake the next morning to four inches of snow and a crisp 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Along with cold weather gear, Soldiers don the Army’s new version of the pistol, the Sig Sauer M17.
Up first is the anti-body armor pistol event. Soldiers are challenged to target specific areas of the body such as the face, chest and pelvic area, to simulate engaging an enemy combatant wearing body armor. Afterwards, they vie for dominance in pistol and rifle excellence-in-competition (EIC) events, shooting from distances up to 400 yards away.
The National Guard Bureau established the Governor's Twenty in 1968. While it starts as a statewide event, the goal is to train Soldiers for regional and national competitions against other states’ top marksmen.
“These events help our Soldiers compete at the national level,” said Halas. “The skills attained here will be used at other events such as the Winston P. Wilson Rifle and Pistol Championship.”
The Winston P. Wilson, held annually in Arkansas, usually hosts 300-500 competitors from across the country. Each state sends 4-person teams. “Some will even send a bravo or charlie team,” added Halas.
Of the 67 Michigan National Guard Soldiers competing in the 2021 Governor’s Twenty, the top 20%, a total of 13 individuals, will be honored by the state’s assistant adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Lawrence Schloegl, as this year’s top marksmen. Winners are awarded a special Governor’s Twenty tab worn on their combat uniform.
“This setting at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center in Camp Grayling provides the perfect opportunity to hone cold-weather skills,” shared Schloegl. “These Soldiers braved the elements and tackled every challenge. They represented their units very well.”
The competition holds additional meaning for Michigan Soldiers, as the rifle and pistol matches are named in honor of local fallen servicemembers.
The rifle course is named in honor of Sgt. Duane Dreasky. Dreasky passed away July 10, 2006, from injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device while deployed with Bravo Company, 125th Infantry Regiment, to Iraq, November 21, 2005.
The pistol course bears the name of Sgt. Craig Frank, who died July 17, 2004, also from injuries sustained when his vehicle hit an explosive device. He was deployed with the 1775th Military Police Company.
Back at Sgt. Frank’s pistol range, Soldiers move from standing to kneeling positions, then to prone as they engage stationary targets. They take aim, not only at the silhouette downrange, but at the leaderboard during the pistol EIC event.
While another iteration of Soldiers pounds targets to dust, Staff Sgt. Mitchell Korpi, 1432nd Engineer Company, 107th Engineer Battalion, shared what this competition means to him.
“I learned about the Governor’s Twenty about ten years ago and was lucky enough to have mentors who taught me how to shoot. They encouraged me to enter the competition,” he said. “To actually shoot and compete against these guys is awesome. It’s a huge honor to be here.”
“The instructors are also big competitors,” Korpi added. “They are the guys we talk to; we pick their brains to find out their secrets and what works for them.”
Day three features an event dubbed the pistol racer where Soldiers sprint 50 yards to a firing position after retrieving magazines from two different locations. From ten meters away, they must engage a silhouette with a ten-round magazine, then conduct a magazine change and engage a steel target.
Though Soldiers are randomly paired against one another, the event is timed to further distinguish the best. However, there is also an additional wrinkle: participants can wager ten overall competition points.
As head-to-head matches continue through the afternoon, there is a build-up of intensity, camaraderie and fun. Sometimes, the laughter and competitive yells create more noise than the ding of bullets hitting the steel target.
Once the dust settles, winners are named.
The 2021 pistol EIC and overall Governor’s Twenty winner is Sgt. Colton Taylor with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 126th Infantry Regiment. The winner of the rifle EIC is Sgt. Kendall Miller-Mather with the 1437th Engineer Company, 107th Engineer Battalion.
“The Official Match Program (OMP) advised of local weather conditions with an average of 50 degrees and highs of 70 degrees, but closed out with, ‘be prepared for the worst.’ Mother Nature did not disappoint,” said Maj. A.J. Przybyla, state training officer. “This event was indicative of what Soldiers prepare for when training for combat, the unknown. They all executed it flawlessly.”
He concluded, “I commend not just the competitors but also the support staff to put together and conduct an event that allows Soldiers to train on their weapon systems and increase the lethality of the force.”
Congratulations to the entire 2021 Governor’s Twenty marksmen. These are the top 20 percent:
Sgt. Colton Taylor
Spc. Jordan DeLange
Sgt. Hunter McDowell
1st Sgt. Kenneth Boyd
Staff Sgt. Zach Strelecky
Sgt. Kendall Miller-Mather
Sgt. Dustin Houghton
Spc. Jacob Gaskins
Staff Sgt. Matthew Kreiner
Staff Sgt. Caleb French
Staff Sgt. William Lodewyk
Spc. Kyle Hurley
Staff Sgt. Jason Hoisington