Winning not the only goal at Small Arms Championships | Military
By Michael Molinaro
FORT BENNING, GA - Winning is the only goal in competition, except when it comes to the U.S. Army Small arms Championships.
The Soldiers who participate in the two-week long training event disguised as a competition come here to win, collect some trophies and go home bragging about their stellar marksmanship, but the real success occurs when they go home and pass off the new tools and skills instilled on the ranges of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit to their unit members.
“For most of the Soldiers who attend the competition the goal is to compete against their peers and beat them,” said Capt. Ryan Calhoon, operations officer, USAMU. “However, the big picture is the Soldiers having the ability to hone their skills, test them under the stress of competition and take what they have learned back to their unit to improve the overall marksmanship efficiency of the U.S. Army.”
This year’s All-Army, which was held from Jan. 28-Feb. 8, implemented more training days into the schedule than in years past when Soldiers were expected to show up and move right into the first day’s matches. This year, Soldiers didn’t compete until the third day of the event.
“We have had an influx of shooters attending with more basic skills,” Calhoon said. “We have seen more Soldiers attend who are not from the traditional crowd of 11 and 18 series (Mission Occupational Specialties) that we normally see attending. This probably has a lot to do with the variety of units supporting (Operation Enduring Freedom) so we have adjusted to make sure that we are providing everyone with the training that they need, to not only compete successfully, but also defend themselves successfully on the battlefield.”
From first-time participants to veterans of multiple All-Army matches, the chance to learn and work on their marksmanship proficiency provided a source of motivation that makes the event more fun than work.
“This was my first time and it’s great,” said Spc. Eric Shifflett, 2-69 Armor Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. “I met a lot of guys willing to show us some things. We got some (Special Forces) teams out here, other Soldiers who have been here a few times, and they pass on advice. We are all here to train and learn so it’s been a great time. When we get back we would love to set up some ranges, kind of like the combined arms courses they did here, and get some of that combat-related training in. It’s really good stuff.”
More than half of the competitors in this year’s event were novice-class shooters, meaning they had never shot in a competition before. Many Soldiers don’t get the opportunity to shoot combat pistol scenarios and the combined arms stages were new to almost every first-time All-Army participant. They said the experience gained while testing their skills under the pressure of competition was invaluable.
“The training days were very beneficial and had me much better prepared for the actual matches,” said Spc. Nicholas Girardin, a national guardsman from Maine. “I learned how to properly read the wind, something I had never been able to compensate for before. Marksmanship is very important for the military and this kind of training is huge. I can’t wait to go back to Maine and pass off everything I learned here.”
The USAMU raises the standard of the Army's marksmanship proficiency to raise the Army's overall combat readiness. The unit provides effective marksmanship training courses and subject matter expertise to produce a tailored marksmanship curriculum based on a commander’s intent. For more information on how to schedule a course, go to www.usamu.com.