Missouri Guardsman wins military category at Fort Benning shooting competition

By: Silas Allen
Missouri National Guard Public Affairs

Sgt. 1st Class Robbie Johnson, of the Army Marksmanship Unit, congratulates Staff Sgt. Damon Rufener, right, on winning the military category at the Fort Benning Three-Gun Competition. (Photo courtesy of Adams Arms)
FORT BENNING, Ga. - A Missouri National Guard Soldier placed highest in the military category at the 2009 Fort Benning Three-Gun Challenge.

In the first stage, Staff Sgt. Damon Rufener, of Jefferson City, placed 11th out of the 200 participants. In two stages, he placed higher than Todd Jarrett, a professional competitive shooter and four-time World Practical Shooting Champion.

The competition consisted of nine stages, and tested shooters' proficiency on the pistol, rifle and shotgun. Rufener used a STI 2011 .40-caliber pistol, an AR-15 rifle and a Winchester Super X2 shotgun. Participants were judged on the basis of time and hits scored. Many of the stages required participants to shoot from unusual positions, including laying the gun on its side on the ground, Rufener said.

"Your competitiveness depends on your ability to shoot accurately while applying high-speed weapons handling," Rufener said. "You just have to hope you don't have a malfunction."

Rufener serves with the Kansas City-based headquarters company of the 1-138th Infantry Regiment and works during the week in the Missouri National Guard's joint operations center at Ike Skelton Training Site in Jefferson City. A former Marine, he said competitive shooting played a role in his decision to transfer to the Missouri National Guard. Rufener was an infantryman in the Marine Corps. One day, a National Guard recruiter mentioned to him that the Guard held a competitive shooting match annually. Rufener was sold.

"That took the cake, right there," Rufener said.

Since then, Rufener and a group of other Soldiers have formed their own competitive shooting team. The team holds a match at the Lake of the Ozarks once a year, Rufener said. What started only a few years ago as a brand-new match has grown considerably, he said.

"It's one of the big matches to go to," he said.

Rufener credits competitive shooting in general, and three-gun competitions in particular, with making him a better all-around Soldier because they enhance his weapons handling skills. He has tried to spread his knowledge and experience to his fellow Soldiers. During a deployment to Afghanistan with the Missouri National Guard's Agribusiness Development Team I, Rufener set up a competitive shooting match at his forward operating base.

"It was a really big hit," he said. "The troops loved it."

Participating in competitions of this level allows Rufener a chance to hone his skills and to see other competitive shooters in action, he said. Finishing at the top of his category was an added bonus. But perhaps he is most proud of competing on the same level as a shooter of Jarrett's caliber.

"He's been doing it so long," Rufener said. "It seems almost unattainable."

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