FORT BENNING, Ga. –
Soldiers with the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command competed in the 2023 U.S. Army Small Arms Championship (All-Army) from March 12-18.
The week-long annual event was hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship unit and the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
265 competitors, comprising 54 teams from the active duty Army, Army National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve, United States Military Academy and Reserve Officers' Training Corps, participated in the live-fire competition. Each team consisted of four firing members with a coach or captain.
The championship was comprised of 11 courses of fire consisting of service rifle, pistol, and multi-gun matches. Participants compete as individuals and as teams in separate classes including cadet, novice, open and professional based on previous competition experience.
Michael Buss, Chief of Competitions, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, described that process to register to participate in the competition.
"During the registration process we allocate teams to all of the major divisions for active duty, (U.S. Army Training Doctrine and Command, U.S. Army Europe and Africa, U.S. Army Cadet Command, USAMA, Security Force Assistance Brigade, 75th Ranger Regiment, Joint Special Operations Command, U.S. Army Reserve and U.S. National Guard),” said Buss. “These allocations provide priority placement into the match. Registration opens in mid-October and closes once the match is full or it reaches the deadline set by the match program.”
This year, three teams from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 85th USARSC participated in the competition including the 85th USARSC Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3-335 Training Support Battalion and 1-383 TSBN.
Multiple 85th USARSC Soldiers competing this year had participated in the U.S. Army Small Arms Championship previously.
“I first competed in the Army Small Arms Championship as a representative of the fourth Army rifle team in 1985,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Slee, 85th USARC. “I competed in the All-Army match approximately a dozen times over the years, ultimately winning the Army Service Rifle Championship in 2011.”
For other Soldiers, this was their first time participating in any marksmanship competition.
“I like shooting as a hobby and this seemed like something fun to do said Staff Sgt. Christopher Dathorp, Observer Coach/Trainer, 1-383 TSBN, 85th USARSC. This is my first year competing and I am learning that I need to work on the basics a lot more than I thought I did.”
Prior to the competition Soldiers engaged in rigorous training.
“I rehearsed the courses of fire, conducted live-fire from all prescribed firing positions, and maintained my physical fitness,” said Slee.
Staff Sgt. Joel Eisen, Observer Coach/Trainer, 3-335 TSBN, 85th USARSC, explained how he prepared for the event.
“For this competition, I go over the match program and practice the tasks I know I will have to do. I do all the same things I would do if I was going on a mission. I practice rock drills, prep my gear, practice PCCs (pre-combat checks) and PCIs (pre-combat inspections) all that stuff,” said Eisen.
The competition provided Soldiers an opportunity to exchange knowledge with top tier marksman from across the Army.
“Someone explained sight picture far better than I ever could before and I was a drill sergeant.” said Sgt. 1st Class Travis S. Linden, Observer Coach/Trainer, 1-383 TSBN. “It was such an easy way to explain it, anyone could understand.”
“It is nice to have a network to share marksmanship information with. That is not something you commonly have in most units,” said Linden.
Participating in the competition also gave Soldiers hands-on experience allowing them to refine their skills which they can take back and share with Soldiers in their home units.
“With the weapons we are firing here there are many important things that a lot of Soldiers are often not taught by their units, such as how to properly use a magazine pouch. Little things like that sound simple and elementary, but you learn real quick out here when you have to reload on a timer that the magazine pouch is more important than you think,” said Eisen.
Slee reflected on the value this event and other marksmanship competitions have for the Army.
“Competitors become the unit’s marksmanship SME (Subject Matter Expert). “The Unit can exploit the skills learned and model their weapons training plan with annual qualification in mind,” said Slee.
“I tell Soldiers to take advantage of Army competitions, join a local gun club and seek out competitive shooters either military or civilian, and get involved in competitions,” said Slee.
Brig. Gen. Richard W. Corner II, Commanding General, 85th United States Army Reserve Support Command, and highest-ranking competitor in the championship’s history, provided advice to unit commanders considering sending Soldiers to the competition.
“Send them! It is a week of pure training from the Army’s best,” said Corner. “It is good to be wet, cold, and have windburn to remember why we joined the Army.”
The 85th USARSC’s formation is made up of more than 3,500 Army Reserve Soldiers, spread across 45 battalions in 25 states. These Soldiers make up half of First Army’s formation and provide observer/coach trainer and logistical support for First Army’s mission of mobilizing and deploying forces.