More than 100 Soldiers and Cadets braved the cold, rain and wind over the course of two weeks to participate in the Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Pistol and Rifle Championships Feb. 3-11, hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit.
“The USAMU is extremely proud to host these championships,” USAMU commander LTC Daniel Hodne said. “Competitions like this are very rare in the U.S. Army. They all had a great opportunity to train with the absolute best shooters and marksmanship instructors in the world and employ their skills in competition.”
The objective of the competition was three-fold, Hodne said. First, to gain training from the Soldiers of the USAMU. Secondly, have some friendly competition among units at Fort Benning, and third, to have fun.
Soldiers were given the opportunity to earn excellence-in-competition points in both the pistol and rifle matches, which lead to the distinguished pistol and rifleman’s badges. Additionally, Soldiers had the chance to shoot on some of the same ranges where the much bigger All-Army Small Arms championships will take place, possibly gaining an advantage over the hundreds of Soldiers and Cadets from throughout the Army who will make their way to Fort Benning for the match later this month.
“Our core competency is engaging those targets that we shoot at and hitting them the first time,” said COL Charles Durr, MCOE chief of staff. “This competition, along with all of the competitions the USAMU sponsors, helps us instill discipline and skill in each one of our Soldiers.”
Cadet Sean-Paul Adams, North Georgia College and State University ROTC, swept the biggest awards, claiming the commanding general’s trophy as overall champion in both the pistol and rifle matches. He was followed by SPC Benjamin Lanzotti, 75th Ranger Regt., who had the top score in the novice division. SSG Jeramy Smith, 75th Ranger Regt., placed first in the open division and third overall.
Team Boars’ Head, made up of cadets from NGCSU, won the team match. Members were Adams and Cadets Jessica Carlock, Jacob Larios and Zachary Guyton. 1st Battalion, 16th Cavalry Regt., took second while third place went to MEDDAC.
In the commanding general’s pistol match, CPT Howard Rice, 4th Ranger Training Bn., took first place in the open division. SSG Erik Correa, 4th Ranger Training Bn., was first in the novice division and Adams won in the cadet division.
At the chief of staff match, Smith took home first-place in the open division. Lanzotti won the novice division, and Adams won the cadet division.
SPC Brad Balsley, USAMU, won first-place in the EIC match. Balsley, Lanzotti, Smith, SPC Lawrence Cleveland, USAMU, and SSG Phillip Allison III, MCOE Band, earned enough points during the match to be awarded the bronze EIC marksmanship badge and are one step closer to achieving distinguished status, the highest honor in marksmanship. In the rifle match, Adams again claimed the top spot overall. Following him in second-place was Cadet Anton Kletsko, NGCSU. Third-place went to CPT Adam Pickett, 199th Infantry Brigade.
The top rifle team was the 198th Inf. Bde. team of MSG Alan Goetzinger, SSG Bradley Schwaiger, SSG James Slayton, and SSG James Hidgin. MEDDAC placed second and 2nd Bn., 54th Inf. Regt., came in third.The rifle EIC match was won by SGT Patrick Franks, USAMU. Three Soldiers earned their bronze EIC badges: Franks, SPC James Travllion, and PFC Matthew Sawallis.
“We’ve been training really hard for this event,” Adams said. “We always like coming here to the USAMU. They really help us with all skills. The weather was nasty and cold, but it was good learning all about the wind from the guys. It’s always a lot of fun.”