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Three-peat for USAMU Praslick in National Trophy Rifle Team Match

Written by Sommer Wood, CMP Writer

It was a three-peat victory for the USAMU Rifle Team who won the National Trophy Rifle Team Match.

Winning the National Trophy Rifle Team Match (NTT) is tough, winning three years in a row is impressive; and impressive accurately describes the performance of the USAMU Praslick team in the 2009 NTT.

For three straight years USAMU Praslick, named after team coach SFC Emil Praslick, have found themselves on top of the results list at the end of the NTT. To win the event this year, the team fired a 2944-115 to hold off a much-improved All Guard Gold team that shot a 2935-93. In addition to SFC Praslick, the team was led by team captain SGT Walter Craig. Firing team members included SFC Grant Singley, SFC Lance Dement, PFC Sherri Gallagher, SPC Tyrel Cooper, SGT Brandon Green and SSG Tobie Tomlinson.

The NTT is often referred to as the “Big Team Match” and with six shooters on the line, many variables come into play that can make or break any team. Entering the 2009 NTT, SFC Praslick just hoped his group would shoot their average to put them in position to win. “The pressure of the team match has a way of taking a few points off a shooters average,” said SFC Praslick, “fortunately our team shot their average today and that made the difference.”

Also making a difference was the team’s newest shooter, PFC Gallagher, who shot a 492-20 to post the team’s third highest score. CMP Rules for the NTT require that one of the six firing members be a “new shooter” who has not previously fired in the NTT. This means that teams must develop a new shooter each year, and this person’s ability to handle the pressure is often a key to the team’s success.

SFC Singley and SFC Dement were the team’s “anchors,” a term used to denote the last of the three firing pairs. SFC Singley shot the team high with a 495-26, followed by SFC Dement who had the second highest score for the team with a 493-21.

A strong finish was exactly what SFC Praslick was looking for when he selected the team’s firing order. “I placed Singley and Dement as the last pair firing because I knew they had the experience to handle the pressure, and both had great performances,” said SFC Praslick.

But in the NTT it is not just the firing members of a team that determine the outcome, those on the line depend on feedback from the coach and captain as they monitor changes in wind and mirage. Entering the 600-yard-line SGT Craig and SFC Praslick devised a strategy for handling the range conditions. The success of this strategy turned out to be critical because after the 200 and 300 yard stages, the All Guard Gold team had built up a five-point lead over the Army team.

“We decided that one person would scope the conditions at our team’s targets, while the other watched the conditions several points down from our team, in the direction that the wind and mirage were consistently coming from. This allowed us to see a change in the conditions several seconds before they reached our targets. This turned out to be a very effective system,” said SFC Praslick.

This method of firing required a lot of patience on the part of the shooters, but this is where training kicked in for USAMU Praslick as they waited for feedback from the coaches. “Part of the teams training plan is to be able to shoot fast, which helped today as we worked around the conditions on the range,” said SFC Praslick.

A new national record was set by the California Grizzlies Junior Team during the NTT. The California Grizzlies Junior Team also was awarded a Rock River AR-15 Rifle donated by Rock River.

The California Grizzlies also posted a repeat victory in this event when they claimed the Minuteman Trophy, awarded to the first place junior team in the NTT. For the second year in a row, the team set a new National Matches Record for a junior team. Firing team members Chad Kurgan, David Bahten, Matthew Chezem, Cheyanne Acebo, Jim Minturn and James MacMillan fired a 2870-74 to shatter the record of 2854-70 that they set in the 2008 NTT. The team was led by coach Dirk Seeley; Bahten served as team captain. The Wi-Force Juniors from Wisconsin shot a 2790-56 to finish in second place.

SPC Jeffrey Mendyka ARNG, of Wallingford, Connecticut was the top individual in the NTT, to win the Pershing Trophy that annually goes to the shooter who fires the highest individual score in this event. This was SPC Mendyka’s first individual title. His 498-16 score also gave him enough points to claim the prestigious Mountain Man Trophy that is awarded to the individual with the overall highest aggregate score in the President’s, National Trophy Individual and the NTT Matches.

MG Greg Wayt and Ms. Nancy Pool presents SPC Mendyka ARNG with the presentation rifle during the Awards Ceremony. The Mountain Man Trophy winner received a Bushmaster DCM-XR competition rifle accurized by the USAMU Custom Shop and donated by Bushmaster Firearms.

“I am really happy, it really has not sunk in yet,” said SPC Mendyka, “I knew I was in the top 10, but I didn’t think I would make it.”

SPC Mendyka shot a personal best in the NTT, and cleaned prone at the 600-yard-line for the first time in his career. He was, in fact, the only competitor in this year’s National Trophy Rifle Matches to shoot a perfect 200 x 200 at 600 yards. He achieve his 498 total the hard way. “My second shot in standing was an eight and I said to myself ‘enough of that’ and cleaned the rest of the match,” said SPC Mendyka.

This was SPC Mendyka’s sixth trip to Camp Perry for the National Matches, but only his second as a member of the All Guard Team. Prior to joining the Army National Guard, he was a member of the Connecticut Junior Team. In January, SPC Mendyka will deploy to Afghanistan with Fox Company of the 186th Brigade Support Battalion, Connecticut National Guard.

The U.S. National Guard from Puerto Rico fielded a team for the 2009 National Trophy Rifle Team Match. This is the first time since 1993 that Puerto Rico has participated in the event.

Highpower teams travel from across the U.S. and beyond to compete in the NTT; this year 73 teams fired the match, 26 of those shot as out-of-competition teams. In recent years Australia has fielded a team at Camp Perry, but there were not enough Aussie-shooters able to travel to the National Matches this summer to create an all-Australian NTT team. Also, a team from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was able to make the trip. The group is part of the U.S. National Guard in Puerto Rico. Team captain MSG Jose Feliciano was on the last team from Puerto Rico to travel to the National Matches in 1993.

“The range has changed a lot since I was last here, at the time it seemed very old. The improvements to Viale are nice,” said MSG Feliciano. “The funny thing is, we were finally able to bring a team to Camp Perry for the first time since 1993, and we were squadded beside the USAMU and All Guard, talk about pressure,” he joked.

JJ O'Shea (front) coaches Ben Baar during the rapid-fire stage of the National Trophy Rifle Team Match held on 6 August. Baar was one of nine M1 for Vets recipients who competed in the NTT.

Debuting in the NTT was three M1 for Vets teams. The M1 for Vets program provides donated M1 Garand rifles to wounded veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Those nominated for the program must have a desire to participate in shooting sports through hunting or competitive events like the National Matches.

Since 2006 the M1 for Vets program has brought shooters to the Camp Perry to shoot the CMP Games events, this is the first year that the group has competed in the National Trophy Rifle Matches. The group was large enough that they were able to form 3 teams, with each team comprised of one-half M1 Vets and one-half volunteers. The group had even larger numbers for the Hearst Doubles Match fired the day before, where 20 M1 for Vets teamed-up with 20 volunteers.

Having such a large group is quite a production and M1 for Vets founder, J. J. O’Shea, said adding the National Trophy Rifle Matches to their schedule created a bit of a learning curve for their shooters. “The first day, orders were having to be given with a little more urgency, but now they have all caught on to the routine of a full course match,” said O’Shea.

The entire experience has been exciting for Ben Baar, USA, Ret. from Miami, Florida, who is shooting the National Matches for the first time. “It is pretty incredible with the large numbers of people, and the way CMP runs everything is great,” said Baar.

On 5 July 2003, Baar, along with fellow M1 for Vets Jason Recio, Steven Lora and Ramio Mayorga, were part of an Army Unit in Ramadi, Iraqi that was hit with an IED that injured all four men. Baar was presented his M1 Garand in 2007 by the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Wounded Warrior Program. He is now heavily involved with that program, trying to get a regional firearms training facility equipped for working with Wounded Warriors in the Miami-Dade area.

Baar and the rest of the M1 for Vets finished out their week at Camp Perry by shooting the CMP Games, which ended with the M1 Garand Match of course.

Texas State Rifle Association Gold was the High Civilian Team in the NTT. Team members received Soldier of Marathon Trophy plaques during the Rifle Awards Ceremony.

For complete results from the 2009 NTT please visit the CMP website at, For more information about the M1 for Vets program contact JJ O’Shea at