THUNDER BAY – A shooting team representing the Canadian Rangers of Ontario’s Far North acquitted itself well competing against top military marksmen during the annual Canadian Armed Forces Small Arms Concentration, according to their team captain.
“I am pleased with their performance,” said Sergeant Ben Kirke, a Canadian Army instructor and the team captain. “As a team they finished up in the middle against some very strong opposition. They didn’t come first but they didn’t come last. They did well.”
All nine members of the team were awarded marksmanship badges. The coveted badges, in the form of two gold crossed rifles, will be worn on their distinctive red Ranger sweaters.
The Northern Ontario team, which included three female Rangers, competed against Rangers from across Canada, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and shooters from the British Army, British Royal Air Force, and various units of the U.S. Army. The Rangers used their traditional .303 calibre Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles while other military competitors shot with automatic assault rifles.
The competition was held over two weeks at the Connaught Ranges near Ottawa. Approximately 450 shooters and support staff participated.
“It was my first time competing,” said Ranger Ryan Friday of Kashechewan, a Cree community on the James Bay coast. “It’s been a big experience for me, a great experience, and I’ve learned a lot about shooting. I can definitely take a lot back to my community about shooting and pass on what I’ve learned from the army.”
During the competition the Rangers shot at still, moving, and briefly visible targets at distances ranging from 100 to 500 metres. They shot within strict time limits while standing, kneeling, and lying prone on the ground. On occasions they had to run 100 metres to get from one shooting distance to another.
The Ontario team was selected from a larger group of Rangers who trained for more than two weeks at Canadian Forces Base Borden, near Barrie, where they each fired about 1,600 rounds while learning taught military principles of marksmanship.
Many of the Rangers were experienced hunters who had to “unlearn” some of their hunting habits, said Sergeant Kirke.
“One of the things we had to undo was what I call flinching or snap looking,” he said. “When you’re hunting you fire off a round and you immediately want to look and see if you hit the animal. When you’re firing in a competition you don’t have to look up every time you shoot to see if you hit the target, because you can’t see if a small hole appears on a distant paper target. A lot of them would shoot and lift their heads immediately during the training.
“There’s a big difference between going high speed on a snowmobile or ATV, stopping, and shooting at a large moving mass like a moose or caribou and then, at a competition like this, trying to control all your mental emotions and your breathing while lying on a (shooting) mound and hitting a distant target.
“You saw them gain confidence and become comfortable with practice as they understood what we were trying to pass on to them during the training. Shooting in this competition has been a lifetime experience for all of them. I‘m pleased with their performance.”
The team members were: Master Corporals Bellamie Bighead of Wunnumin Lake, Darren Shewaybick and Roland Shewaybick, both of Webequie; Corporal Shawn Roundhead of North Caribou Lake; and Rangers Ryan Friday of Kashechewan, Paula Nakogee and Jonathan Knapaysweet, both of Fort Albany, Pamela Machimity of Mishkeegogamang, and Jocelyn Yellowknife of Neskantaga.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at CFB Borden.)