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NEWS | July 13, 2023

U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit dominates at 2023 Interservice Rifle Championships — yet again

By Lt. Col. Michelle Lunato U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Service Rifle Team won all team matches and ten of fourteen individual match categories at the 62nd Interservice Rifle Championships in Quantico, Virginia, on June 20-27.

The week-long rifle championships pits all servicemembers across the Department of Defense against each other for top honors and bragging rights, all while sharing their knowledge during friendly competition. The annual event, which is hosted by Marine Corps’ Weapons Training Battalion, is open to active duty, national guard and reserve servicemembers from the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Air Force. This year, more than 60 competitors from across the Nation were on the range.

The championships kicked off with the Navy Match, which is 20 slow-fire shots at 200 yards in the standing position within 20 minutes. The USAMU Soldiers missed the win to Army National Guard’s Staff Sgt. John Coggshall. However, they did manage to claim six of the top ten spots in that course of fire.

The second match, the Coast Guard Match, was another tough match for the USAMU as Army Reserve’s Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Friend seized the win. Four Fort Moore, Georgia Soldiers did place into the top ten of this course of fire though, which consisted of 20 rapid-fire shots from 200 yards in the sitting/kneeling from standing position. Each 10-shot string was given 60 seconds.

By match three, the Marine Corps Match, the USAMU Soldiers turned things around and began their winning streak. Seven of the top ten spots, including the first five positions, were claimed by USAMU Soldiers. Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Green, a Covington, Louisiana native, earned the win with a 200-13x. Staff Sergeants Ben Cleland, David Bahten, Verne Conant, and Jacob Blackburn followed behind Green, respectively. This course of fire had the servicemembers fire 20 rapid-fire shots from 300 yards in the prone from standing position. Each ten-shot string was given 70 seconds.

In the Air Force Match, the Home of Champions snagged another podium sweep. This time, Cleland, a Swanton, Ohio native took the win with a 200-9x. Pfc. Dustin Carr, a San Diego, California native, followed in second with a 199-11x while Green took third with the same score. Four more USAMU Soldiers placed in the top ten of this 20-minute course of fire, which included 20 slow-fire shots from 600 yards in the prone position.

In the Army Match, the competition was tight as the top three competitors scored 200-13x while the next two followed with 200-12x. USAMU Soldiers took seven of the top ten spots with Spc. Zevin Linse, a Kent, Washington native, leading the unit in third place. Army National Guard’s Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Elsenboss, a USAMU alumna, claimed the win for this match. This 20-minute course of fire required marksmen to fire 20 slow-fire prone shots from 600 yards.

Cleland won the most coveted individual match of the championships, the Interservice Individual Rifle Champion, with an aggregate score of 995-46x, which came from his performance in the first five service matches. In fact, this was the fifth time Cleland won this title—something no other competitor has ever done in the 62 years of the competition.

This big accomplishment is still sinking in, said Cleland.

“It’s very gratifying and humbling to have won even one Interservice and to see my name alongside those former champions who I have so long looked up to. The credit for winning five times now goes to them for setting the example to follow, to my teammates past and present who have driven and encouraged me, and to the continuous support of the USAMU and my family.”

Past USAMU Soldiers have certainly set the example since in the last 18 years, USAMU Soldiers have won this title 13 times.

Bahten, a Jamestown, California native followed Cleland in second with a 995-42x while five other USAMU Soldiers placed in the top ten.

In the “Special Six” 600-Yard Match, USAMU Soldiers won both the Service Rifle and Match Rifle Categories. Staff Sgt. Shane Butler, a Louisville, Kentucky native took the Service Rifle Category win with a 199-12x while three other teammates made it into the top ten.

Spc. Adam Fitzpatrick not only won the Match Rifle Category of the “Special Six” 600-Yard Match, he set a new record with his 200-19x while six other teammates earn spots in the top ten. The Snellville, Georgia native’s score beat the standing 2008 record of 200-18x that was set by USAMU’s Sgt. 1st Class Lance Dement. In following years, USAMU’s Staff Sgt. Tyrel Cooper and Cleland and Army National Guard’s Coggshall tied the record, but it was the young Army specialist who finally managed to set the new high, an honor he said he won’t soon forget.

“It was a unique experience, and an honor, to break a long-standing record of former members of our team with one of the same exact guns that has set it before,” said Fitzpatrick.

The Home of Champions continued on their streak of dominance in the 1000-Yard Match by winning both the Service Rifle and Match Rifle Categories. Blackburn seized the Service Rifle Category win while five other teammates filled in spots in the top ten. In the Match Rifle Category, USAMU Soldiers seized eight out of the top ten placements, including first through fifth position. Cleland, Linse, and Conant earned the podium spots.

That same trio filled up the podium of the Match Rifle Category of the Long-Range Match while five other USAMU teammates finished in the top ten. In the Service Rifle Category, Carr lead the unit coming in second behind U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Christopher Gervasio. Seven other USAMU Soldiers finished is the top ten. This match was an aggregate score from both the “Special Six” 600-Yard and 1000-Yard Matches.

The final individual match was the prestigious Excellence in Competition Match, where again, USAMU Soldiers took the win both categories. Butler seized the Distinguished Category win with a score of 495-43x while Staff Sgt. Nathan Lockwood earned the win in the Non-Distinguished Category with a 491-17x.

Next up were the team matches and USAMU remained consistent to their winning tradition.

In the 1000-Yard Team Match, the Home of Champions seized both the Service Rifle and Match Rifle Categories, something the unique Army unit has accomplished since 2010. This course of fire consisted of 20 slow-fire prone shots from the 1000-yard line by six firing team members, totaling 120 shots per team. Each team shot in groups of two from one firing point, with their two shooters alternately firing on the same target.

Team USAMU Deal earned the Service Rifle Category Team Champion title with a score of 1177-43x, beating the Marine Corps and Army Reserve teams. This team included Blackburn, Carr, Butler, Bahten, Lockwood, and Staff Sgt. Lane Frost. Butler served as the team captain and Sgt. 1st Class Alexander Deal served as the team coach.

Team USAMU Greenwood earned the Match Rifle Category Team Champion title with a score of 1198-92x. Beating the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve teams. This team included Cleland, Linse, Conant, Green, Deal, and Fitzpatrick. Sgt. Forrest Greenwood and Spc. Levi Clark served as the team coach and captain respectively.

In the Commanding General’s Rifle Team Match, the USAMU won both the first and second place spots in the active duty category over the Marine Corps and Navy teams.

This course of fire consisted of each shooter on the six-man firing team firing 10 slow-fire standing shots from 200 yards, 10 rapid-fire prone from standing shots from 300 yards and 10 slow-fire prone shots from 600 yards. This includes two shooters from each team alternately firing at the same firing point during the slow-fire stages, which were allotted 66 minutes in total for the team. The rapid-fire time allotment was 70 seconds per string.

USAMU Greenwood took first place with a score of 1783-73x, which broke the 2018 record of 1782-74x set by USAMU Craig. This team in included Green, Linse, Bahten, Cleland, Staff Sgt. Jarrod McGaffic and Sgt. 1st Class Erin O’Neill. Greewood and Clark served as the team coach and captain respectively.

USAMU Deal followed in second with a 1745-79x. This team included Blackburn, Conant, Carr, Deal, Lockwood and Butler. Deal and Butler served as coach and captain respectively.

USAMU Greenwood claimed the win over the Marines in the Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match, or 10-Man Team Match, with a score of 4948-209x. In fact, a USAMU team has consecutively won this match since 2017, and now 16 times in the last 18 years.

The course of fire for this coveted team match included four stages. Stage one, which had a total of 66 minutes, consisted of 10 slow-fire standing shots from 200 yards, with two shooters occupying one firing point and firing alternately at the same target. Stage two consisted of 10 rapid-fire sitting from standing shots from 200 yard within 60 seconds, for each team member. Stage three consisted of 10 rapid-fire prone from standing shots from 300 yards within 70 seconds, for each team member. And stage four, which had a total team time of 126 minutes, consisted 20 slow-fire front shots from 600 yards, with two shooters occupying one fire point and firing alternatively at one target.

Scores from this 10-Man Team Match determined the winner of the Lt. Col Reynolds Trophy. As the highest overall competitor in this match, Linse earned the honor with his score of 498-24x while eight other USAMU teammates filled in the top nine scores.

The final match of the championships was the prestigious Marine Corps Infantry Trophy Team Match. USAMU Greenwood won the match with a score of 1436, making this the 11th win for the unit in the last 15 years.

This historic match is made up of six shooters, a coach and a captain. With a total of 384 rounds, the teams fired 50-second relays at eight targets in stages from 600, 500, 300 and 200 yards. Hits were scored as four points from 600, three points from 500, two points from 300 and one point from 200.

The winning team included Bahten, Butler, Cleland, Conant, Green and Lockwood. Greenwood and Staff Sgt. Matthew Nelson served as the coach and captain.

The strong performance by the team continued the tradition of excellence and showed that the training plan is working, said Deal, the Service Rifle Team Chief.

“I couldn’t be happier for everyone’s individual performance, in addition to the team’s performance. Records and scores aside, many members of the team had excellent days of shooting where they were more excited about a person hurtle or plateau that they broke through. It’s always our favorite part of the job when another servicemember, civilian, or our own teammate has a breakthrough on their marksmanship skills. That usually brings us more gratification than any record or score.”