NIAGARA FALLS, NY (02/26/2014)-- Five members of the New York Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 101st Cavalry who train in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, along with a member of the New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing from Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, will represent the United States at a marksmanship competition in South Africa next month.
They are part of a ten-member New York National Guard team which has been invited to participate in the annual South African Army Rifle Competition in Bloemfontein. The four other members of the team come from New York Air National Guard Bases in Syracuse, Scotia, Newburgh and Westhampton Beach.
The event begins March 4 and runs through March 15.
Teams from other African and North Atlantic Treaty Organization militaries are invited to compete in the event along with Active Duty and Reserve component forces of the South African National Defense Force.
The New York National Guard has a training and exchange partnership with the South African National Defense Force through the National Guard's State Partnership Program. The program pairs state National Guard's with militaries in eastern Europe and the developing world. New York and South Africa have been partnered since 2003.
"We are proud that Soldiers and Airmen of the New York National Guard will be representing the United States military at this international marksmanship competition," said Major General Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York.
"The New York National Guard has a great relationship with the South African National Defense Force which we've built through repeated visits and training exchanges like this one over the past decade. I know our Soldier and Airmen will do a great job of representing New York and the United States and strengthen our relationship even more," Murphy said.
Heading for South Africa next month are:
• Army National Guard 1st Lt. Thomas Beach, Buffalo;
• Army National Guard 1st Lt. Roberts Wesley, Lockport;
• Army National Guard 1st Lt. Sean Lucas, Buffalo;
• Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Nicholas Hare, Tonawanda;
• Army National Guard Sgt. Ryan Campbell, Cheektowaga;
And New York Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Edward Stefik, from Lewiston.
Stefik, a New York State Trooper in civilian life and a member of the 107th Security Forces Squadron at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, is the team manager. He is an experienced marksman who has completion in the annual National Guard shooting competition and won the New York National Guard's annual marksmanship competition.
"We are going to have a week of prep time before we compete so we will get a chance to train on that style of weapon," Stefik said.
Beach, who is serving as the team captain, said he and the other Guard members are looking forward to the opportunity to meet service members from South Africa and the other participating nations.
Beach, who has served in the Active Army and National Guard for 11 years, shoots year-around as a hobby.
"We are excited and everybody is looking forward to training with other militaries," said Beach, who serves as the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry signal officer.
"It's absolutely a great opportunity, said Roberts, a full-time Guard officer who serves as the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry's assistant operations officer.
Participants in the shooting match use the South African R-4 Rifle. The weapon fires a 5.56 millimeter round similar to that fired by the American M-4. However, the American shooters will need to get used to a different sighting system and different feel of the South African rifle, Stefik said.
The bullet also uses a different grain of powder which will influence the trajectory of the round, added Beach. This means the Americans will have to get used to that as well, he said.
The 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Soldiers have been preparing for the event by training on an electronic marksmanship trainer, Beach said. One member of the Army team is trained as a sniper while others have basic weapons training.
The other Air Guard members who are participating are all experienced marksmen, Stefik said.
This is the second time a New York National Guard Team has participated in this competition. An eight-Soldier New York National Guard team finished in fourth place during the 2011 South African competition.
Other Air Guard members participating in the event are:
• Air National Guard Master Sgt. Jose Pena-Rojas, Mount Kisco;
• Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Kevin Weatherby, Cohoes;
• Air National Guard Airman 1st Class Matthew Rossen, Fabius;