CAMP ETHAN ALLEN TRAINING SITE, Vt. –
The 2017 Chief, National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championship was held at the Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vermont, from March 3 to March 10. The competition included 120 National Guardsmen from 23 different states. Competitors ranging from novice to experienced professionals participated in the week-long championship.
“Biathlon is a winter Olympic sport that combines Nordic skiing with marksmanship,” said U.S. Army Capt. Kevin Elmer, biathlon coordinator, Joint Force Headquarters, Vermont National Guard.
The races vary in length and amount of shooting. The first two races are individual races and are followed by two team events with four group members.
The sprint race is the first race and determines the start order for the pursuit race. It’s a ten-kilometer race for the men and a seven and a half kilometer race for the women and each competitor has to shoot prone and standing, said Elmer.
The pursuit race is a twelve and a half kilometer race for the men and a ten-kilometer race for the women, and consists of shooting prone twice and shooting standing twice, said Elmer.
The first group race is the relay race. The men ski seven and a half kilometers and the women ski six kilometers and shoot prone and standing before tagging off to their teammate, said Elmer.
The patrol race is a 15-kilometer race and members have to stay within 15 seconds of each other. The team includes three shooters and a patrol leader. After each two and a half kilometer loop, the team moves to the range, but only one athlete fires. There are three laps in which the athletes take turns shooting, firing prone first, then standing for the second lap, and then finally prone for final lap, said Elmer. The race, however, was shortened to ten kilometers this year due to weather and time constraints.
The individual races test a service member’s ability to move and shoot on their own, but the team races further expand on the skill set by introducing teamwork and more communication. The military emphasizes, shoot, move and communicate; the three basic skills required of any service member, and the biathlon delivers exemplary training in each one.
”The biathlon is important to the National Guard because it provides high quality marksmanship under stress and great physical fitness training and the athletes learn great leadership skills, focus, and the skills required to have a good training plan teach them how to make plans and prepare to be leaders,” said Elmer.
The sport not only helps to improve a service member’s skills, but also sets them apart as well.
“It’s an excellent opportunity if you’re looking for ways to better yourself and really put yourself above your peers and take the chance to really do something different,” said Spc. Lisa Roberts, Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 174th Air Defense Artillery, Ohio National Guard. “You’re going to get a lot from it and you’re going to challenge yourself in many different ways.”
The opportunity is even better for service members who show amazing skill in the sport.
The biathlon development team trains all year long and participates in various races.
“We race all around the world in military competitions,” said Tech. Sgt. Travis Voyer, biathlon trainer, 158th Fighter Wing, Logistics Readiness Squadron, Vermont National Guard. “Not only do we get to race throughout the country but we also race internationally and we call it friendship through sport. Athletes get to race against other countries and meet other military members throughout the world.”
The dedication of the members of the development team shows through their accomplishments and ability to field Olympic athletes.
“We’ve had 24 Olympic athletes since the National Guard took over the program in 1973, and any time the National Guard has an Olympian it helps bring attention to what the guard does for the country,” said Elmer.
The biathlon is more than just a sport for service members to enjoy. It’s a way to connect with people around the country and the world. It’s a way to show off the National Guard and its abilities. The biathlon provides training that produces great service members with exceptional skills that are applicable in any scope of field outside the sport.
“For anyone that is interested, just try to get in contact with your state’s team, express your interest, and see what options they have for you,” said Roberts. “A lot of teams are going to be willing to help get you on that team even if you’re brand new to the sport.”