To most, the words "international competition" mean just that, a head-to-head battle for intercontinental supremacy. But to the Alaska State Troopers and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, their annual International Police Pistol Competition is anything but fierce.
"It's not about shooting, it's not about guns, it's about camaraderie," said Joe Masters, Department of Public Safety commissioner.
Sunday marked the 49th anniversary of the yearly tradition between the two law enforcement agencies. The competition was held at the Snow Shoe Gun Club in Kenai.
Including commanding officers, six personnel from each agency participated in a variety of riflery events. Contests included competing on a trooper-designed course as well as on an RCMP-designed course. Officers also competed in a tactical course event where they ran from various shooting stations, using different weapons and shooting from different positions at varying targets.
"It was awesome," said RCMP Cst. Natasha Dunmall, a first-year participant. Dumnmall said she enjoyed getting a chance to fire some weapons that are illegal in Canada.
"The camaraderie was the best part for me," said RCMP Cst. Ben Douglas. "The troopers definitely put on a an impressive show."
Dunmall said she was able to better appreciate the longest running international shoot competition in history because of its historic roots. The 49-year tradition of the competition shows the staying power of U.S.-Canadian international relations.
"A shoot is able to keep going," she said. "It's not forgotten."
Along with the historic aspect, Masters said he derives a great sense of pride from the event. He said he hopes to carry that tradition and pride into the future, and would like to see the competition go on for another 40 years.
The competition builds professional relationships and trust between the two agencies, Masters said.
"It's a tight-knit relationship between the two countries," said AST Sgt. Tim Schoenberg. "It's family."
Schoenberg said he often works with RCMP on cases and the event helps to strengthen that relationship.
Schoenberg, a 15-year veteran of the competition, said the event is one of the highlights of his career.
"I just enjoy it," he said. "I just really have a lot of fun."
The competition began after Joe Vachon, RCMP commanding officer, wanted to find a way strengthen the relationship between the two agencies. And so, the friendly shooting competition was born.
During the shoot, troopers and Mounties exchange weapons as a part of each course. The tradition relates to a prior case that both agencies worked on together.
They were searching for a suspect in Hyder, a border community in southeast Alaska. Canadian laws prevented troopers from bringing weapons across the border, so Mounties provided troopers with their weapons.
Each year the competition changes as teams make up a course, containing a combination of time, distance, weapon-type, precision and capabilities.
"This competition was very important to both agencies. I think it is a bit of tradition and history that needs to continue," said AST Director Col. Audie Holloway in a written statement. "You cannot put a price on the importance of spending time with your fellow employees and friends."
This year, AST won the team competition for a second year in a row. Schoenberg, of Fairbanks, won the highest shooter contest by nine points over RCMP Cst. Ryan Lane Hack. Alaska Wildlife Trooper Brent Johnson, of Tok, came in third behind Hack by three points.
Masters won the Commissioner's Trophy over RCMP Commanding Officer Chief Superintendent Barry Harvie.
The highest AST shooter for the AST course was Trp. Brent Johnson. The highest AST shooter for the RCMP course was Schoenberg.
Hack was the highest RCMP shooter on the AST course and was also the highest RCMP shooter on the RCMP course.
The competition also included a significant other shoot off. Schoenberg's girlfriend, Katherine Hood, was the highest shooter for AST and Hack's wife, Joy, was RCMP's highest significant other shooter.
"It's a good family event," said Rangemaster Capt. Hans Brinke. "It's just a great event."
Mike Nesper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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