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News | Sept. 26, 2023

El Salvador wins NH National Guard marksmanship match

By Sgt. Bei Simmons

A squad of five lieutenants from El Salvador won the team competition in this year's New Hampshire National Guard Combat Marksmanship Match held Sept. 6 to 8 at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

Sixty-six military personnel from the NHNG, Canada, and state partners El Salvador and Cabo Verde competed for individual and team honors. Capt. Robert Matzelle, commander of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain) won the 1st Lt. Wheeler Award for top pistol shooter.

The annual TAG match featured 11 marksmanship skill events designed for pistols and rifles. And for the first time, it hosted a team from the Salvadoran military.

"It's more than just shooting," said NH Adjutant Gen. David Mikolaities, who has competed in nearly every TAG match. "It's maintaining professional marksmanship skills that we are able to share with our partners."

"What's really unique about this event is that we have our allies and partners here," he added. "So it is a true international event."

One of the Salvadoran competitors, Subteniente Alejandro Vasquez, said the firing ranges at Devens were "a lot more complex than the ones in El Salvador."
He was grateful for the new experience.

“We're very happy to be here and the people are so warm to us," Vasquez said. "I would like to say thank you for all the efforts to make us feel welcome.”

Maj. Mario Rey, state partnership director, said the TAG match was a unique opportunity for the Guard's foreign partners to see the role NCOs can play in the planning and execution of large scale events, "which is not so common in their countries."

The TAG match provides a comprehensive assessment for people at various skill levels to learn, practice and improve their technique, according to support staff. While many championship shooters represent New Hampshire on the national level, novice shooters are also taking their first step towards mastery.

“I didn't really have the ability to practice shooting in my personal life, so I wanted to take any opportunities to build up my skills, " said first-time competitor Sgt. Nathaniel Sanborn, a supply sergeant with the 3643rd Brigade Support Battalion. "What's a better start than the TAG match to learn from other people who have done it for several years?"

For Senior Airman Zachary Whipple of the 157th Operations Support Squadron, the TAG match was a chance to shoot an M18 pistol for the first time.

“I’m definitely prepared to come back next year and I plan on doing better next year," he said.