Story by Bryan Gatchell, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs
Photos by Markeith Horace and Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Oct. 23, 2017) – The International Sniper Competition here culminated in an awards ceremony Oct. 20 after a week of contests to test sniper teams from across the Army, the Department of Defense, civilian law enforcement agencies, and international military teams.
The winners of the competition were Staff Sgt. Jonathan Roque and Sgt. Brandon Kelley from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based out of Fort Benning, Georgia.
The competition presented awards in different categories. Teams were awarded according to the class of weapon they used (service class or open class). There were also awards for best civilian team, best international team, best U.S. military team, best team in live-fire stalk, and best in aerial shoot, which are listed here:
- Overall Winner: Staff Sgt. Jonathan Roque and Sgt. Brandon Kelley of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia
- Open-Class and Second Place: Staff Sgt. Jaime Jimenez and Staff Sgt. Joshua Cavalier of National Guard Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, Georgia
- Service-Class and Third Place: Petty Officer 1st Class William Leahy and Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicolai Helbert U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team
- Best Civilian Law Enforcement Team: Cpl. Paul Spriggs and Officer Jason Stack of the San Bernadino Police Department at San Bernadino, California (10th overall)
- Best International Team: Overkonstabel af 1. grad Jesper Stottrup and Overkonstabel af 1. grad Frederik Peterson of the Royal Danish Army (5th overall)
- Best U.S. Military Sister Service Team: Staff Sgt. Emmanuel Velayo and Sgt. Daniel Bothwell of the U.S. Marine Corps Infantry School West at Camp Pendleton, California (7th overall)
- Best Team in Live-Fire Stalk: Cpl. Paul Spriggs and Officer Jason Stack of the San Bernadino Police Department from San Bernadino, California (10th overall)
- Best in the Aerial Shoot (tie): Sgt. Christopher Waite and Sgt. Jared Chambers of U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper Instructor Course at Quantico, Virginia (11th overall) and Spc. Adrian Leatherman and Spc. Jonathan Rojo of the 7th Infantry Division at (17th overall)
There was also a Red Lantern award. Traditionally this was awarded the last-place finisher, but more recently the event organizers awarded it to the team that “displays uncommon courage, grit and perseverance in the face of rigorous, demanding events,” according to the citation during the ceremony. The Red Lantern award went to Staff Sgt. Jason Andrade and Staff Sgt. Joseph Mille of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.
“Any competition that we shoot in prior to deployment is literally a pre-combat deployment train-up for us,” said Roque, member of the winning sniper team, on the importance of the competition. “As far as training together and getting the repetitions in to actually see how the different organizations work is just a plus for anybody.”
Kelley said he and Roque received encouragement from the local military community.
“Coming into this competition, a lot of the local guys – a lot of the cadre here, a lot of the MCoE guys – said ‘Let’s keep it on Fort Benning, let’s win one for Benning,’” said Kelley of the award. “It’s nice to be able to keep it on Benning this year.”
Over the course of four days, the competition tested the sniper teams’ fitness, ability to acquire targets, long-range and short-range shooting skills, ability to disappear from the enemy, and attention to detail. The aerial event assessed the snipers’ ability to fire from a UH-60 Black Hawk.
Sniper teams represented divisions and regiments from across the active-duty Army, from the National Guard, from other military services including the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard, from civilian agencies including city and state police departments and the Department of Homeland Security, and from other countries, including Canada, Denmark, Germany and Norway.
“We’re representing the National Guard as a whole, which is great to be the faces of an organization like that,” said Sgt. Nick Mitchell, a member of the U.S. Army National Guard “All Guard” Team out of Camp Robinson, Arkansas.
Mitchell and his teammate Sgt. Saykham Keophalychanh won the Winston P. Wilson Sniper Championship. The top three National Guard teams to place in the Winston P. Wilson move on to the International Sniper Competition. Mitchell and Keophalychanh also won last year’s International Sniper Competition when they represented the Michigan National Guard.
“The courses of fire are the problem, and every team is going to approach it differently,” said Keophalynchanh. “It lets you compare and contrast different thought processes and mindsets in terms of approaching the problem.”
“It’s fun, there’s the prizes, there’s the spirit of competition,” said Mitchell. “But in the end, it’s always a learning event – learning different things from different people and bringing them back to your home state.”
Most teams came from different parts of the United States and the U.S. military, but four teams represented other countries. Overkonstabel af 1. grad Jesper Stottrup and Overkonstabel af 1. grad Frederik Peterson, representing Denmark, placed fifth overall and took the title of best international team.
The German team came from the German Infantry School (Ausbildungszentrum Infanterie) out of Hammelburg. Their coach Hauptfeldwebel Stefan Hüfner said the event gave their snipers an opportunity to learn about the technology the U.S. military and other teams are using.
“The competition is very professional,” said Hüfner. “The most important thing here is to see what the different countries or the different teams use for night vision, scopes, and thermal sights.”
“We want to know where the German Army and our snipers are,” said Stabsfeld Oliver Triebel, one of the two German competitors. “With the equipment, is it possible to be on the same level and skills as the other international teams? And everybody wants to know how we are ourselves.”
Spriggs and Stack, the winners of best civilian team from the San Bernadino Police Department came with their coach Sgt. Francisco Hernandez. Stack said there were substantial differences between what they do as civilian snipers and what the military sniper does.
“In our world, everything’s closer quarters,” said Stack. “Seeing the things we need to work on – longer range, low visibility, complete night vision – as well as having the higher stress versus just sitting on a rooftop and looking out a window. Adding that stress element is a big eye-opener.”
Spriggs and Stack appreciated the collegial nature of the competition.
“These guys have just been very supportive of us,” said Spriggs. “They’ve been open and welcoming. They’ve been teaching us a lot.”
“The military guys here have been awesome,” said Hernandez. “Traditionally we do competitions. There’s always a spirit of sportsmanship, but we never go to each other and say, ‘This is how you handle this next competition.’ These guys will just sit down with them and they’ll teach them how to do the run they’re going to compete with them against.”
To see the video on the competition, visit the link above.
For more photos from the 2017 International Sniper Competition, visit the link here.