For the son of a Youngstown couple, earning a top spot as one of the National Guard's top shooters has become almost an obsession over the past year.
Air National Guard Master Sgt. Edward J. Stefik, son of Edward M. and Patricia A. Stefik of Main Street, Youngstown, was one of more than 400 of the top National Guard marksmen throughout the country who converged on Camp Robinson, in Little Rock, Ark., to determine the best shooters in the nation.
The 40th annual Winston P. Wilson sustainment training exercise and marksmanship competition focused on training that combined marksmanship skills with combat tasks to gauge the overall readiness of the National Guard soldiers. Stefik is a security forces supervisor who represented the New York National Guard Alpha team. He finished eighth overall in the novice division for the overall pistol aggregate scores. Stefik also led his team to a 10th place finish in the Machine Gun POW match. The team finished 25th overall.
"Competing gave me the opportunity to meet some great soldiers and airmen," said Stefik, a 1990 graduate of Wilson Central High School, Wilson. He also earned a bachelor's degree from Buffalo State College in 1996. "It is great to work with them and shoot with them."
Training for a competition of this magnitude is a year-round affair for these guardsmen and women, with hundreds of hours of practice on the firing range with several different types of weapons. But more than simply a shooting match, the Wilson competition is even more about preparation for combat.
"I competed and placed in the New York state matches to qualify for the Wilson match," said Stefik, who has been a member of the military for 18 years, including 16 with the Army and two with the Air Force.
Win or lose, the soldiers who compete here not only learn where they stand against the best in the business, but they take away a game plan for what it takes to survive on today's battlefield. "The skills I picked up from the Wilson will make me and my teammates force multipliers on today's war on terror. Be a student of your art," he commented.