More than 300 Soldiers from across the Army formation descended on Fort Benning March 19-28 to take part in the 2011 U.S. Army Small Arms Championship, the “All-Army.”
Army Reservist Russell Moore, 91st Small Arms Readiness Group, Camp Bullis, Texas, won the overall individual championship, his third championship in a row. Winning the title is a significant accomplishment but the ultimate goal of the event is to raise the overall combat readiness of the Army.
“The All-Army Small Arms Championship not only provides the training every Soldier needs to excel in marksmanship, it also provides a means in which to test it among their peers as well as some of the best shooters in the world,” Moore said. “When we all signedup to be a Soldier we volunteered to take on innumerable challenges and new experiences. The All-Army should be one of those experiences for every Soldier. Come out with a desire to learn and do your best and it will be a great time.”
Hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Soldiers competed in rifle, pistol, and combined arms matches. The long-range championship was held after the conclusion of the rifle/pistol week and competitors shot at targets 800-1,000 yards. The training and competition is like no other Soldiers receive in the military, said Lt. Col. Daniel Hodne, commander, USAMU.
“Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s words, ‘Upon the fields of friendly strife are sewn the seeds that on other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory,’ put this one-of-a-kind training event in the proper context,” Hodne said. “The seeds have been sewn here at the All-Army; the responsibility now lies with those Soldiers who took part, to incorporate what they learned into the training of their units. Their efforts will bear the fruits of victory in Afghanistan, Iraq, or wherever the requirements of national security may take us.”
The field of Soldiers was the highest in 18 years. Soldiers from Alaska, Guam, South Dakota, Florida and everywhere in between came to compete. While a number of All-Army veterans such as Moore found their way back to Fort Benning, a large contingent of first-timers embraced the challenges and uniqueness of the championship.
“This is the best thing in the Army,” said Daniel Byler, 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry Brigade, Division East-First Army, Camp Atterbury, Ind. “Marksmanship is a perishable skill. Soldiers should really make it a point to come here for this event. It’s great.”
Byler came with seven others from his unit on their first trip to the All-Army. They spent two weeks on Fort Benning late last year taking part in a Close Quarters Squad Designated Marksman course conducted by the USAMU. Between the advanced training they received at the course and competing here all week, they said they were more confident than ever in their marksmanship ability.
“I prefer service rifle but it’s cool to shoot some pistol, and the run-and-gun stuff is an absolute blast,” said Byler, an 18-year Army veteran. “You don’t get to do that anywhere in the Army. We made a lot of good friends here and got a lot of good pointers on shooting from guys who have been here before. We’ll definitely be bringing the team back again next year.”
Soldiers were split into four main categories: novice, open, pro and cadet. Winners received plaques, coins, guns and had their names permanently engraved on trophies. The overall high novice shooter for the week was awarded a Secretary of the Army M1 Garand Trophy Rifle and the top pistol shooter won a Secretary of the Army pistol built by the gunsmiths of the USAMU custom firearms shop.
Five Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadets earned scholarship money provided by the Civilian Marksmanship Program. A new award was added to the program this year — the Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley award, given to the cadet with the highest aggregate score of the two Excellence in Competition matches. Matthew Ray of the U.S. Military Academy earned the distinction as the first cadet to earn the trophy.
The Col. Ralph Puckett Excellence in Marksmanship award, given to the Soldier in the novice class who achieved the highest aggregate score of the two EIC matches, was won by Matthew Waechter, 132nd Fighter Wing, Iowa Air National Guard.
“The competition is designed to test the entire depth of a Soldiers shooting ability,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, Maneuver Center of Excellence command sergeant major. “No matter where you ended up, participation in this event makes the Army that much stronger. For a competitive marksman, consistently applying the fundamentals and achieving success on the range translate to achieving success on anything that you do, whether on the battlefield or other walks of life.”