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Weaponry and camaraderie at international shooting competition

Michael Dreger, an enlisted soldier in the German army reserve, shoots a Swiss assault rifle, during the 29th annual Monte Kali Pokal shooting competition at the Wackernheim Regional Range complex, near Wiesbaden.

MARK PATTON/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARK PATTON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 11, 2012

WACKERNHEIM, Germany — More than 1,500 competitors showed their shooting prowess Friday at the Wackernheim Regional Range complex near Wiesbaden, but it wasn’t your typical day at the range.

The 29th annual Monte Kali Pokal shooting competition, a three-day event that wraps up Saturday, features competitors from 14 NATO and Partners for Peace nations.

The mood was serious on the range, where soldiers, police officers and members of shooting clubs fired a Swiss assault rifle in a competition among teams of four. Each member of the team tried to sling 15 rounds into a target 300 meters away within two minutes.

The other ranges didn’t involve competition but offered troops from different countries a chance to try weapons they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to use. The sounds of Dutch Glock 17s and American M4, M9 and M249 weapons filled the air with their unique noise.

“Everybody wants to fire this thing,” said Staff Sgt. Deearrah Wyatt, with the Kaiserslautern-based 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, as he helped a Belgian soldier fire the M249. “Everybody loves machine guns.”

There was also a range where troops tossed “dummy” grenades. Between throws, they danced to the beat of rock and hip-hop music pumping out of speakers. Once they started lobbing grenades at the targets, the music was replaced with simulated gunfire.

“The music and sounds makes it like a fantasy,” said Descous Stephane, an adjutant in the French army.

Competition organizers said the purpose of the event is to increase the understanding of basic weapon skills of allied nations while developing relationships and sustaining partnerships.

On Friday, American and German troops or Polish and French soldiers could be seen side-by-side chowing down on a bratwurst or admiring a particular rifle. In the field area, where traveling countries pitched up tents, make shift grills and empty beer bottles from the night before could be seen stacked up.

While G.I.s, guns and beer may seem like a bad idea, troops only partook in adult beverages when they were done shooting for the day.

One participant compared the atmosphere to a festival, just one where the attendees were in military garb.

National pride was also on display, as fervor for the upcoming European soccer championships spilled over into the armed forces. Trucks draped with German flags and orange decorations pledging allegiance to the Netherlands were a common sight.

Sgt. Kevin Perry, with the Wiesbaden-based 557th Medical Company, said interacting with people from other countries “definitely beats sitting around the office.”

Many competitors brought bags of unit patches and other articles, hoping to trade.

Master Sgt. Greg Doles, with the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, said seven months of planning went into the event, which is co-run by the U.S. 7th Civil Support Command and the Association of Reservists of the German Armed Forces.

“We’ve been doing coalition operations for (at least) 10 years and there’s such a reliance on our European allies,” Doles said, adding that the event is a chance for the U.S. to say “We trust you.”

pattonm@estripes.osd.mil

Switzerland's flag flies above a tent area for Swiss soldiers on Friday at the 29th annual Monte Kali Pokal shooting competition at the Wackernheim Regional Range complex, near Wiesbaden. The Swiss SIG SG 550 was the featured weapon during the three-day competition.
MARK PATTON/STARS AND STRIPES