By Jerry MeridethMarch 18, 2019
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Missouri National Guard Staff Sgt. Jerry Dement finished firing, cleared his rifle and removed the magazine. Dement said he had finished with a "decent" score on Day Three of the 2019 U.S. Army Small Arms Championships.
"This is my second time coming," Dement said. "Last year, we won team overall. I'm the only survivor from last year's team though… The iron sights competition is the hardest. I'm more of a pistol shot. "
However, testing Soldiers on both the pistol and the rifle is exactly how the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit determines the best marksmen in competition. With more than 260 Soldiers from across the country and overseas on the USAMU ranges for this year's "All Army" event, it will not be an easy task. The annual, premier marksmanship competition is referred to affectionately as the "All Army" since it brings Soldiers (active duty, Reserve and National Guard) and cadets from across the force together in one place to test their skills.
Soldiers fired from multiple distances, then bounded over dew-covered berms in the brisk morning. After three days of testing their skills, competition had begun to tighten as Soldiers anticipate the weekend events that will determine the winners of this year's All Army.
Leading USAMU's staff of cadre on the rifle range was Sgt. 1st Class Shane Barnhart from Ashley, Ohio. Training, experience and the chance to compete against the Army's best brings Soldiers back each year, Barnhart said. So for six days, the Soldiers' skills are put to the test in 10 different courses of fire.
And the courses of fire are not easy, said Barnhart as he explains just one of the matches.
"Soldiers will fire from 200, 300 and 500 yards," Barnhart said. "At 200, they will shoot standing, slow fire, 10 shots. Then, they'll shooting sitting, rapid fire for 10 shots. Then, they will be back at 300 and shoot prone, rapid fire 10 shots, and they will shoot slow fire from 500 yards for 20 shots."
After firing off rounds, Soldiers made adjustments to weapons, tightening their shot groups in a steady wind. Team members spotted shots from scopes. Targets popped up and down hundreds of meters downrange.
Army Capt. Joseph Lucas from the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, Fort Meade, Maryland, watched his team of two Soldiers at work. They will take home lessons learned and train their peers. Capt. Lucas brought a team to the competition. He had won a place on the President's 100 in competition while at West Point, NY.
"This is our first year here," Lucas said. "We are looking for TTPs (tips, tactics and procedures) we can take home to improve our marksmanship skills. It's important that we take the knowledge learned back to the brigade."
The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning is known as the "Home of Champions." USAMU Soldiers compete in competitions nationally and internationally, including the Olympics. The USAMU provides world class training to Army units worldwide