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123rd Airlift Wing members earn top honors at state marksmanship competition

Marksmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing took top honors in the Adjutant General's Kentucky National Guard State Combat Training Event, held May 1, 2011, at Fort Knox, Ky. Pictured from left to right, back row, are Master Sgt. Norm Rechel, Tech. Sgt. Bryan Hunt, Tech Sgt. Erik Smith, and Tech. Sgt. Don Yeats. On the front row are Airman 1st Class Abe Hilbers, Master Sgt. Darryl Loafman, Tech. Sgt. Randy Ford and Staff Sgt. Jim Berger. (Courtesy Photo)

Marksmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing took top honors in the Adjutant General's Kentucky National Guard State Combat Training Event, held May 1, 2011, at Fort Knox, Ky. Pictured from left to right, back row, are Master Sgt. Norm Rechel, Tech. Sgt. Bryan Hunt, Tech Sgt. Erik Smith, and Tech. Sgt. Don Yeats. On the front row are Airman 1st Class Abe Hilbers, Master Sgt. Darryl Loafman, Tech. Sgt. Randy Ford and Staff Sgt. Jim Berger. (Courtesy Photo)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Several members of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing won top honors at the Adjutant General's Kentucky National Guard State Combat Training Event, held May 1 at Fort Knox, Ky.

The Kentucky National Guard Recruiting and Retention Office sponsors the annual combat matches to promote marksmanship by providing competition between units within the Commonwealth. The competition emphasizes improvement in individual shooting skills, team spirit, physical fitness and leadership qualities, said Master Sgt. Darryl Loafman, captain of the 123rd's Team A.

This year, the shooting events were tough, but the competition was even tougher, he said.

"We went up against Army National Guard teams from across the Commonwealth, and they are all highly trained marksmen," Sergeant Loafman said. "To beat shooters of their caliber says a lot about the capabilities of our Airmen and what (the Kentucky Air National Guard) can bring to the fight."

Rifle teams and individuals competed from the prone, standing, sitting, kneeling, squatting and alert positions from distances of 25, 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards with an M16A2, M4 Carbine or M16A4 rifle. Pistol competitors fired from the standing, standing barricade, kneeling and prone positions using an M9 or M11 semi-automatic.

Individual participants were divided into two classes - Old and New. Competitors were considered "old" if they had previously fired at a Post-Level competition in any state; shooters were considered "new" if they hadn't. Teams had to be comprised of at least 50 percent new shooters. Moreover, all participants had to wear load-carrying equipment during the competition, including a pistol belt, harness, first aid pouch and packet, one canteen with cover and cup, at least two ammunition pouches and a Kevlar helmet.

"We wore gear we would normally wear in a real combat environment," Sergeant Loafman said. "This wasn't just a competition; it was training to prepare Soldiers and Airmen for surviving and winning in a firefight."

Individual pistol competition winners from the 123rd were Tech. Sgt. Bryan Hunt (1st place pistol, old class), Sergeant Loafman (2nd place pistol, old class) and Tech. Sgt. Erik Smith (1st place, new class). Sergeants Loafman, Hunt and Smith also teamed up with Staff Sgt. Randy Ford to claim 1st place in the team event.

While the rifle competitors from the 123rd didn't occupy top slots individually, they did capture the 1st- and 2nd-place team titles. Team A took top honors and was comprised of Sergeants Loafman, Hunt, Smith and Ford; Team B won second place with Master Sgt. Norman Rechel, Tech. Sgt. Jim Berger, Tech. Sgt. Don Yeats and Airman 1st class Abram Hilbers. The two teams also took the 1st- and 3rd-place Overall titles, respectively.

Additionally, Sergeant Loafman was awarded the 3rd place Overall Individual title, and Rifle Team B was awarded the First Annual Lt. Ephraim M. Branks Award. Lieutenant Branks, a Greenville, Ky. native, is historically referred to as the "Kentucky Long Rifleman." He earned hero status during the War of 1812 for his actions against British Forces at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.