The Army’s best shooters took to the grass recently and plinked their way to excellence in marksmanship at the U.S. Army Small Arms Championships.

The week-long competition, which ran from March 12-18, included ROTC cadets and soldiers from all Army components pushing to earn top honors.

The competition, colloquially known in Army circles as the “All Army,” is hosted by the Army Marksmanship Unit each year at Fort Benning, Georgia and tests soldiers ability to use both primary and secondary weapons systems in a live-fire event, solve problems and think critically under stress, according to an Army release.

Officials told Army Times that more than 250 shooters competed in this year’s event. Those competitors included 90 active-duty soldiers, 47 Army National Guard soldiers, 69 Army Reserve soldiers, 39 ROTC cadets and eight Air National Guardsmen.

Maj. Samuel Freeman with the South Carolina Army National Guard won the overall all Army individual champion title. He also took top honors for both the individual rifle and pistol championships.

Maj. Ian Swisher with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard took second place home to the keystone state.

And 1st Lt. Zachary Reed with the Utah Army National Guard grabbed the overall bronze and won 1st place in the multi-gun championship.

On the group side, the Utah Army National Guard team took first in the multi-gun competition category and second place in both the pistol and rifle team categories.

Those team members included Reed, Sgt. 1st Class Kayle Buchanan, Sgt. Maxim Nikerson and Sgt. Kade Jackovich.

The South Carolina Army National Guard team won the Rifle Team Champion title while the New Hampshire Army National Guard team secured the Pistol Team Champion title.

Several personal stories emerged through the days of competition.

The father-son duo of Col. Andrew Clark and Pfc. Quinlan Clark competed in the event. The elder Clark, who serves as commander of the Army’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, attended the 2022 annual match and competed this year to improve his marksmanship skills.

“Growing up, I understood the value of marksmanship as a hunter and a competitive shooter in college,” the colonel said in the release. “And in the Army, I have never been satisfied with the average level of marksmanship, and throughout my career I have competed on my own. I earned the President’s Hundred Tab on my own, with my own training.”

The younger Clark, an infantryman with Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 2-35 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, grew up shooting with his dad, but saw this competition as bringing a new level to his shooting.

“This is a great opportunity for other privates, or lower enlisted like myself, to go out there and prove what they can do and take that knowledge back to their units, and spread that wealth,” the private said in the release.

While each share personal goals of improving their shooting, one must be better, right?

“When asked who was the better shot, the father and son just looked at each other and laughed before Col. Clark graciously added, ‘Well, I have been doing it longer,’” according to the release.

Not to be outdone, a pair of Army ROTC cadet sisters also competed in the annual match and its 11 different courses of fire.

Cadets Hayle Mayer and Jesse Mayer, both with the Texas A&M University ROTC, sought to raise their marksmanship skills through competition.

Jesse participated in the previously, while it was Hayle’s first attempt.

“I think both times that I have come here, I have really grown as a marksman…just learning the basics, what I am capable of, watching improvement each year, and just learning how complex marksmanship is. It’s been really incredible each time,” Jesse said in the release.

As part of their ROTC’s Ranger Challenge Team, the pair competed in the Army Marksmanship Unit training event to gather experience and knowledge that they could later share with other cadets.

And to strengthen their abilities before they head to the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“We all want each other to do the best that we can,” Jess said. “We are very competitive with each other, but also very supportive I think — we balance each other out.”

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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