Maryland Air National Guardsman awarded shooting badges

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. David Speicher
  • 175th Wing Publice Affairs
The U.S. Air Force Distinguished Rifleman and Distinguished Pistol Shot Badges are the highest honor that most military and civilian rifle and pistol shooters can aspire to earn and Maryland Air National Guardsman Senior Airman Evan Jones was awarded both Air Force distinguished shooting badges.

Another Maryland Air National Guardsman earned both badges in the same year - Master Sgt. Greg Blackstock, intelligence operations specialist, 175th Intelligence Squadron. Blackstock was awarded both badges in 2000.

Jones, an electronic warfare pod technician, 175th Maintenance Squadron, and Blackstock previously worked together in the electronic warfare systems shop of the 135th Maintenance Squadron. Blackstock told Jones about the opportunity to compete with the base marksmanship team as a new shooter.

"I told the base marksmanship coordinator (Blackstock) that I was good and quickly found out that I was not. Master Sgt. Blackstock mentored me and guided my growth in multiple shooting disciplines," said Jones.

"You find things during the day to practice fundamental skills," said Blackstock. "I provided him the opportunity and tools for him to excel."

Jones applied that knowledge. "I find ways during my daily activities to practice fundamentals to hone my skills for competition. I have a sticky note on my wall (as an aim point) in the living room to practice dry firing in my home."

In addition to Blackstock's mentoring, Jones credits his success to, "consistently being challenged. When you consistently train and compete against people who are better than you, you have to get better."

He learned from those who were better. "I asked all the guys that were better than me about things I had difficulty with. I couldn't mentally calm myself down," he said. "It is all about mental discipline. The shooting stuff is 90 percent mental and ten percent physical."

According to the Civilian Marksmanship Program, the Distinguished Badges are awarded to a member of the Armed Forces or to a civilian in recognition of an excellent degree of achievement with the service rifle or pistol.

"I earned points in 4 pistol matches and 5 rifle matches over a period of three years," Jones said. "I never thought about the points. If you think about what you are trying to win you are not going to do well in the competition."

The badges are issued to Airmen, Active, Reserve and Guard, who have received a total of thirty points in excellence-in-competition rifle matches shot over a three year period. The current total number of USAF Distinguished Rifleman Badges is less than 350 and less than 415 for USAF Distinguished Pistol Badges since the inception of the program.

The match has to be formatted in a certain way by the civilian marksmanship program. That way it is standardized because it is available to all branches of the military and civilians.

In the fall of 2013, Jones earned the points for pistol badge at combat nationals at Camp Robinson, Arkansas and for the rifle badge at a regional match at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

"There are a good number of people that have gotten either pistol or rifle badges. When you go into the people that have both, the number decreases. That number decreases even further for someone who has won both badges in the same year," Jones said.

Jones' skills have translated into two other distinctions: the President's 100 and the all guard team.

The Presidents 100 is a tab worn on the Airman Combat Uniform and a badge on the service dress uniform for ranking in the top 100 shooters at the annual national match at Camp Perry, Ohio.

The all guard team is National Guard members, both Army and Air Force, who compete and also teach others to improve their shooting skills. "In September of 2012 I was invited to try out for the all guard team." When he is not shooting in matches, he helps coach Airmen and Soldiers. "You give a new Airman or Soldier training that would cost an astronomical cost in the civilian world," said Jones.

He also volunteers to teach civilian shooters. One example was when he was finishing technical school in Texas this year. He received permission to go to a local match near Sheppard Air Force Base and he coached a youth team. "We have the uniform on and (we project an) authoritative figure. The kids listen. It is an awesome way to give back to the community."

Jones has come full circle from his beginning in shooting to where he is now as a decorated competition shooter who gets real joy out of mentoring shooting enthusiasts. "It is not about me winning. The better feeling is taking a novice and coaching them," said Jones. "I take the skills I have learned and give it back."