Photos by Lori Graham
Battle of the Badges 2023 brought together 82 law enforcement officers in a unique environment for camaraderie, training and competition on Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Izaak Walton League facility in Christiansburg.
Officers from Montgomery County and the City of Radford participated in the event.
The Izaak Walton League is a national organization that “helps to conserve, maintain, protect, and restore the soil, forest, water, and other natural resources of the United States and other lands; to promote means and opportunities for the education of the public with respect to such resources and their enjoyment and wholesome utilization,” according to their website at http://www.cburgiwla.org/.
The organization is located on Izaak Walton Lane in Christiansburg and maintains a large and active membership. Each new member must be sponsored by a current member and complete an orientation and safety training session. Members are expected to complete volunteer hours as the organization is run completely through the support of the individuals that utilize the facility. Membership dues and applications can be found on their website.
Mike Brosius, Vice President of the Izaak Walton League, traveled between stages by golf cart assisting in keeping the event running smoothly on Saturday, and served as guide to media as the Battle of the Badges event was underway. Brosius explained that the organization does quite a bit of outreach to the youth in the area, educating students on stormwater waste management, soil conservation, fish and wildlife, and weapon safety.
President of the Izaak Walton League Pete Jobst was also on-site to assist in the operations of the event. Jobst explained the types of outreach they do for Montgomery County youth in cooperation with the school system.
“A lot of guys think this is just a shooting range, right, but this isn’t. It’s more community now,” Jobst said. “Montgomery County Schools, they do their Stormwater Days down here; approximately 750 middle-school students in two days.”
The Izaak Walton League funds the transportation for the students to come to the location where they can learn more about water conservation and management, among other things. Another great feature at the facility is their fisheries. The club holds a free fishing rodeo for youth. These are just some of the events that the League holds every year.
“Everything here is sponsored by the shooting sports,” Jobst said.
“We wouldn’t be here without firearms,” Jobst said. “That’s tough for people to digest sometimes, but if you look at all the things we are able to do because of it, I think you have to look at the fact that we are safe gunowners and we train people.”
Preston Woodrum is the organizer of the Battle of the Badges event that began in 2022 with 39 competitors from law enforcement, more than doubling that number this year. The shooting competition and training involves law enforcement to perform on six different staged environments with a variety of barriers to move behind and around, shooting from around or through vehicles, buildings, and are scored on accuracy and speed. Only the current shooter on the range will have ammunition in their weapon and they must use their service weapon to participate.
“Most law enforcement training, shooting wise, you are just standing in one spot, shooting at a target that is three yards from you. Here, we have targets that move, you run around, they are engaging targets while they are on the move,” Woodrum said.
Safety is of the highest priority at the event. A trained law enforcement officer closely runs behind each competing shooter holding a box that measures accuracy among other things, but this person also serves a role in safety.
“He’s doing two things. He’s keeping the time, but most importantly, he’s making sure at all times, the muzzle of other guns are off range, keeping everyone safe, and he [the current shooter] is not turning around and flagging people. The dew in the morning, grass could be wet, if somebody falls, keeping him as safe as possible,” Woodrum said. “Making sure that when the shooter is finished, that he unloads, and being sure that all officers are safe. It is a dry range, so the only time officers have ammo in their weapon is when they are on the range.”
Woodrum emphasized the importance of local law enforcement coming together to train and socialize together.
“If something bad happens in the county, we are all going to go,” Woodrum said. “Everybody from every jurisdiction within Montgomery County is going to show up, so this is an opportunity to train with all these guys in the various agencies, if that day would come, or when that day would come, they know who they are responding with.”
Law enforcement officers from all over the eastern part of the United States, including Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania made the trip. Two United States Federal Marshalls were also in attendance at the event and helped in making the event safe and fun for everyone.
The winners of the 2023 Battle of the Badges competition are:
1st – Colin Shine
2nd – Robbie Hearn
3rd – Matt Corkey
4th – Trevor Merrell
5th – Andy Metro
“Prizes were donated by businesses and six pistols were donated to give away. We reached out to other sponsors as well,” Brosius said.
The outpouring of money and prizes was incredible. Sponsors listed on the back of printed t-shirts for the event were Powerzone, Kesler Contracting, Dominion Door and Hardware, Inc., All Call Towing, Gunbutter, Timney Triggers, New River Engraving, Sentry, Alien Gear Holsters, Blue Alpha, HighCom, Fire Rescue Tactical, Vortex Optics, Iceman Design, PACT, HRT, High Speed Gear, and of course, the Izaak Walton League of America. Additional sponsors, listed on a banner at the entrance of the event, included Whitetail Outfitters, SignPros, Shively Electric, Barrows, New Day Office, Tint Pros Plus, and many city, town, and county police divisions from multiple regions.