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News | April 11, 2023

They got a new attitude

By Tech. Sgt. Charles Johnston

The New Hampshire National Guard “came out of nowhere” to seize third place at the U.S. Army Small Arms Championship held March 12 to 19 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

After a 10-year hiatus from the prestigious national competition, Granite State’s “Alpha” squad hauled in three team and seven individual awards against a field of 264 shooters. Perhaps most impressive was their first-place finish in team pistol against 54 squads.

The weeklong competition included cadets and soldiers from all components of the U.S. Army – active duty, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve – as well as shooters from the Air National Guard and Space Force.

Coached by Lt. Col. Brooks Hayward, the four-man team included Capt. Patrick Randall, Sgts. 1st Class Joseph Wyner and David Musso, and Tech. Sgt. Connor Cunio.
Wyner, team captain and state marksmanship coordinator since 2019, credited the impressive showing to more practice and a culture shift characterized by teamwork. Shooters were encouraged to share information and help each other, even while shoulder-to-shoulder on the firing line.

“Shooters were selfish,” Wyner recalled of his early years with the team. “I would ask them, ‘How do I do better?’ and they would say, ‘Just shoot better.’ They didn’t share to keep doing well for themselves. We share everything (now).”

The squad’s lone airman, Tech. Sgt. Connor Cunio of the 157th Air Refueling Wing, won third place in the novice category as a first-time, All-Army competitor. He was also all about sharing.

“This is a memory I will never forget,” Cunio said. “We can now take what we have learned and pass this along to our units and continue to grow as marksmen.”

Musso, a two-time, NH TAG Match champion and one of the squad’s senior members, took first place in an individual pistol event.

“The team did a stellar job investing all the time they could afford, and it paid dividends,” he said. “Our personalities have always just clicked no matter how stressed. We all seem to lift each other up in spirits and always seem to get laughing again.”

Alpha team’s performance was no laughing matter for opponents, some of whom didn’t perceive the NH guardsmen as a legitimate contender after the state’s long absence from the event.

“Where the (expletive) did New Hampshire come from,” a Colorado shooter exclaimed to Wyner. “You guys came out of left field!”

Moving forward, the team is not resting on its laurels. Wyner has pledged to win a national-level competition. The Winston P. Wilson (WPW) Championship hosted by Arkansas at the end of this month will be the next opportunity.

“I’m ecstatic how well we did at All-Army, but it wasn’t first place,” he said.