FORT BENNING, Ga. (Feb. 24, 2012) -- More than 330 active-duty Soldiers, Reserve marksmen, Guardsmen and cadets are registered to attend and compete in the 2012 U.S. Army Small Arms Championship March 1-10 at Fort Benning -- the highest number of competitors in 19 years.

The "All-Army," hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, has established attendance records the last three consecutive years. Soldiers stationed in Germany, Alaska, Hawaii, and all across the country have signed up. It is a testament to the quality of the event and the emphasis that Soldiers and units across the Army formation place on marksmanship, said Lt. Col. Dan Hodne.

"Marksmanship is the paramount Soldier skill," said Hodne, commander, USAMU. "It is the key component to Soldiers, units and Army combat readiness."

The championships begin with a full day of small arms firing schools conducted by USAMU experts before Soldiers toe the firing line. Competitors compete in rifle, pistol and combined arms matches. Within those disciplines are Excellence-in-Competition Matches, demanding two-mile-run-and-shoot matches, team matches and the opportunity to learn marksmanship techniques and skills from peers and USAMU Soldiers.

Soldiers will compete in separate Cadet, Novice, Open and Pro classes based on their competition experience. There are special category awards and trophies also for High Drill Sergeant, High Novice and High Enlisted Soldier, Guard, and Reserve (E1-E4).

Champions will be awarded All-Army Trophies and Soldiers who finish in the top 10 percent will earn EIC Marksmanship Badges, which are permanent-wear Army awards as described in Army Regulation 600-22 and have precedence above the standard qualification badges. Two coveted Secretary of the Army Trophy M-1 Garand Rifles will also be presented to two champions.