The silence is broken with the distinct cry of a horn cutting through the morning air. As if commanded by the sound, Djiboutian, French, Japanese and American Soldiers all leap from the starting line, sprinting across the arid desert.
This dash across the Djiboutian desert was part of a rifle marksmanship competition held on Dec. 11, 2021, and hosted by Soldiers from B Company, 1-157th Infantry Regiment (Mountain), Task Force Iron Gray (TFIG), Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).
“We are doing this friendly competition between our forces to see who is the best shot,” said U.S. Army Capt. Stephen Buehler, company commander, B Company, 1-157th Infantry Regiment (Mountain), TFIG, CJTF-HOA. “The marksmanship competition is modeled on the Army’s 9-minute Match.”
The Army's 9-minute Match is a marksmanship competition. Each participant shoots a total of 20 rounds. Between each shot, the Soldier sprints 25 meters, picks up a single bullet, then runs 25 meters back and fires their rifle. The competition is grueling and demands shooters have at least 20 shots on a paper target 25 meters away. In total, the participants run a kilometer, and the winner is the person with the most shots on target.
“We ramped up the intensity,” Buehler added. “We increased the time to 13 and a half minutes and put everyone in full body armor.”
After the competition ended, the Soldiers all came together. They socialized and showed off rifles and other weapon systems used in their respective countries. For some, it was the first time they had seen another country's service rifle.
“It is really cool meeting these other armies from around the globe and finding out that we are all the same type of person,” said U.S. Army Spc. Tucker Grossman, infantryman, B Company, 1-157th Infantry Regiment (Mountain), TFIG, CJTF-HOA. “We are all young, motivated and have a common bond.”
The French had a large presence at this competition, having roughly equal troops to that of the Americans.
One French infantryman, a soldat de première classe, said that this was his first time working with U.S. Soldiers and he enjoyed the competition.
At the end of the competition, scores were calculated and the winner was decided. U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua Gregorcich came in first place, besting more than 70 Soldiers representing four nations.
This event is one of the last that TFIG will host in Djibouti. At the start of the new year, the battalion will return home and transfer authority to the incoming 1-116th Infantry Regiment from Virginia.
“Our intent as a task force is to continue to build relationships with our coalition partners; to pass that on to the unit that is replacing us and give them a solid foundation to work with,” Buehler said.
CJTF-HOA and joint partners collaborate regularly throughout East Africa. They are consistently training together, running exercises and refining their processes so their service members can operate in harmony.