By Sgt. 1st Class Julius Clayton
QUANTICO, Va. - Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) won first place in all five team and 11 of 12 individual matches during the 57th Interservice Rifle Championships in Quantico, Virginia.
The championships, hosted by the U.S. Marine Corps' Weapons Training Battalion from June 25 to July 2, foster competition and information sharing among the U.S. military services.
Sgt. 1st Class Walter Craig, Service Rifle Team coach, said the team's goal was to represent the Army well, and he couldn't be happier with their performance.
"We came into this match with high expectations; everyone performed well," said Craig who is a Cleveland, Tenn. native. "It is our mission to dominate this event. We accomplished our goals, and that feels really good."
USAMU set numerous match records throughout the competition, including individual and team record-setting performances. The individuals who stood out include Sgt. Lane Ichord, a native of Waterford, Calif. who set a new record in the Interservice 600-Yard Match with a score of 200-16X and tied his own shared record in the Interservice Marine Corps Match, which is rapid fire from 300 yards prone.
"It was my goal to set some records this year," said Ichord. "I am glad I was able to accomplish that, it feels really awesome."
"Our expectations are always to break records, especially in a championship like this with all the best military shooting teams here competing," said Craig. "Our team performed phenomenally. They executed the game plan to perfection and did everything I asked them to."
Ichord said, "I had a really good rifle, the conditions were perfect, my coaches put me in the best positions and our USAMU team are just a great group of people with wonderful chemistry. So all I really had to do was make sure I aimed at the X."
In the other individual events, USAMU nearly swept the competition by taking first place in almost every event. Record setting scores were posted by Sgt. Ben Cleland, a native of Swanton, Ohio, who won the Interservice Air Force Match with a 200-17X, which is fired from 600 yards in slow fire prone. Then, Staff Sgt. David Bahten, a native of Sonora, Calif., claimed the Lt. Col. C.A. Reynolds Memorial Trophy, which honors the highest scoring individual marksman during the Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match, with a remarkable score of 500-26X, setting a new modern day record for this event.
Continuing the Army's legacy of excellence is something these expert marksmen train for and Craig attributes the Service Rifle Team's continued success to the structure and leadership of the unique Army unit.
"Being in the USAMU, we are provided with the best equipment, best gunsmiths, and best ammunition. We are also provided the time, resources and environment to train and hone our marksmanship skills. We have no option but to be the best marksmanship team in the world."
In the team matches, the USAMU displayed its depth of marksmanship expertise by winning all five first place team matches contested at this year's competition.
The highlight of these matches was the team coached by Craig breaking a 13-year-old interservice record in the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command Team Match with a world class score of 1782-74X.
Craig said, "We have been trying to break that record for a while now. We came close last year, just barely missing out by a couple of shots. So this year, we were able to set this record. It is quite an accomplishment and shows the quality of marksman we have at the USAMU, the best marksman in all the armed services, in my opinion."
The team that Craig coached to this record setting performance was captained by Sgt. 1st Class Shane Barnhart, from Delaware, Ohio and included Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Green, from Bogalusa, La.; Sgt. 1st Class William Pace, from West Valley, Utah; Spc. Verne Conant, from Billerica, Mass; Bahten, and Cleland.
They collected the Interservice 1000-Yard Team Match, Service Rifle and Match Rifle Division's respectively. The Interservice Rifle Team Championship, a ten-marksman team from each service firing in four stages of varying yardage and tempo, and the Marine Corps Infantry Trophy Team Match.
As titles were being claimed and old records were falling, the USAMU kept the training plan from last year to help everyone prepare said Sgt. 1st Class Evan Hess, the new team chief of Service Rifle who hails from Mount Pleasant, Texas.
"I was trying to keep the same methods and strategies for the Soldiers, so they can succeed," he said. "So throughout the early part of the season, I tried to help them recognize what their strengths and weaknesses are and to focus on getting better each day."
Hess said this is just the beginning of USAMU's busiest time of the season, and the way each and every Soldier performed bodes well for the Army to have a successful and rewarding summer.