Fort Benning, Georgia — For decades, the bonds that Soldiers build with each other has led to the term ‘Army family.’ However, this year’s U.S. Army Small Arms Championships featured a much more literal definition of family when a father and son Soldier duo competed side by side in the week-long marksmanship training event.
Both Col. Andrew Clark, commander, U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization out of Fort Bragg, N.C., and his son, Priv. 1st Class Quinlan Clark, an infantryman with Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 2-35 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Honolulu, Hawaii, got the chance to compete and train at the annual marksmanship event hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, which is commonly called the ‘All Army.’
The All Army brings together more than 250 Soldiers from all components of the force (active duty, Army Reserve, National Guard and cadets from Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs) to test them on both their primary and secondary weapon systems through the stress and camaraderie of competition.
Col. Clark first attended an All Army in 2022 and decided to come back this year for a several reasons. First off, he personally and professionally supports the development of marksmanship skills.
“Growing up, I understood the value of marksmanship as a hunter and a competitive shooter in college. 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.”
However, as a commander of a unit that is called on to represent the United States while training and advising its allies and partners, Col. Clark’s main mission was to help his Soldiers advance their skills as well. So, he brought two SATMO teams to All Army so that they could gain the experience and knowledge to share with their Soldiers back at Fort Bragg.
“I want to take the unit to the next level of lethality and expertise—basically take all these lessons learned here, back to SATMO, and then to our allies and partners.”
Priv. 1st Class Clark grew up shooting with his dad most his life, but doing it in an Army setting, and competition, added a new level to the experience.
“It was a great opportunity to continue my marksmanship in the Army, and take whatever lessons I learn here and apply this to be the best Soldier I can be.”
And as an Infantry Soldier, Priv. 1st Class Clark knows the value of marksmanship too. It’s his number one task and he highly recommends attending the All Army to any other Soldier.
“This is great opportunity to enhance a basic Soldier skill that everyone should be working on at all times.”
Advancing marksmanship skills is something Col. Clark has pursued personally for years and now, and the commander is pushing his SATMO Soldiers to do the same by attending the unique and challenging U.S. Army Small Arms Championships, which is held annually at Fort Benning.
“The value of this training is phenomenal,” Col. Clark explained.
All Army starts off with training classes from the champions and experienced trainers at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. Then, the Soldiers have the chance to prove their skills by putting the lessons to the test on the range. With 11 different courses of fire in total, All Army competitors experience a variety of marksmanship situations. Both the rifle and pistol courses of fire were a mix of shooting with combat gear and without, commonly referred to by Soldiers as shooting slick. Then, the culminating event, which is a favorite among most Soldiers, is the Multigun Match. This match had the Soldiers move through four separate shooting stages that required them to quickly change from their rifle to their pistol, or vice versa.
This mix of training in the week, is just something very unique in the Army, Col. Clark said.
“The courses of fire here, are far more challenging and far more advanced than anything in the basic pistol marksmanship or basic rifle marksmanship that almost any Soldier in the Army gets.”
In fact, the value of the All Army, particularly when the Soldiers take the training back to their units, is a factor that could take the force to the next level in terms of marksmanship.
Participating in the All Army offers any Soldier “better training, better assessment of skills, and better skills development for combat marksmanship than anything else the rest of the regular Army is doing at any point,” Col. Clark explained.
In fact, Col. Clark believes that the All Army is great way to prepare Soldiers for combat.
“Everyone in the combat arms understands that Ranger School puts you under simulated stress to test how you would function in a combat situation. The stress of competition here, is the same.”
Shooting side by side against Soldiers from across the Army, against a clock, and in and out of combat kit, is a great way to simulate stress and test how your marksmanship skills can stand up to it, and yet, still be a safe training environment, Col. Clark added.
The All Army is the Army’s competition, and it was close, but not maxed out this year, and Col. Clark found that surprising. In fact, he recommends that units across the Army have an internal selection process.
“There should be competition among the units to send their teams here.”
Priv. 1st Class Clark agreed with his father and said he would love to see more of this kind of training at his level too.
“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.”
While advancing the skills of marksmanship with their Soldiers and peers back at Fort Bragg and Hawaii may have been the long-term goals of the father-son duo, the mere fact of shooting at the All Army together for the first time, certainly had a more personal meaning to them both.
My son was born when I was a captain, and shooting next to him this week has been a wonderful experience, said Col. Clark.
“Now, here I am serving in the same Army as my son. It’s just been a fantastic opportunity to shoot side by side.”
However, at the end of the day, the U.S. Army Small Army Championships is still a competition. 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.”