FORT BENNING, Ga. - More than 200 Soldiers from around the force competed against each other and Mother Nature at the history-making 2014 U.S. Army Small Arms Championship.
Snow, ice and bone-chilling weather, combined with the highest female participation in two decades and the crowning of a five-time champ, made this year's iteration of the Army's premier marksmanship training event one to remember for years to come.
"It was interesting," said Master Sgt. Russell Moore "It was great combat weather. It wasn't anything our Soldiers aren't facing around the world. It definitely affected things and you had to plan accordingly. I think it brought out the warrior in everybody."
Cementing his legacy within the lore of the "All-Army," Moore won the overall individual championship for a historic fifth time. The Army Reservist and Dept. of Army civilian from Boerne, Texas, edged out fellow Army Reservist Sgt. 1st Class John Buol in a close battle that came down to the final match.
"It was very close and we didn't know who won until they announced it at the awards ceremony," Moore said. "This one feels good because there were some phenomenal shooters this year."
Moore spends his weekdays instructing combat medics at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He follows that up on the weekends as a ROTC instructor at the University of Texas at San Antonio with the 4-414th Regiment (SROTC) and said he takes the valuable lessons back to the classroom.
"I've been very happy to take what I learned here and other matches and, whether it's my students or my cadets, to (explain to them) just how important individual marksmanship truly is to the Army."
Hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers were split into four main categories: pro, open, novice and cadet. Winners received plaques and coins, and their names were permanently engraved on trophies. Moore and the overall high novice shooter for the week, Capt. Nicholas Brunnet, were awarded a Secretary of the Army M1 Garand Trophy Rifle for their accomplishment. Team California won the overall team championship.
Snow and ice pelted Fort Benning on the second day of the event, leading to the post closing for a day and-a-half. USAMU personnel scrambled to adjust the schedule so the Soldiers who attended would still receive enough training to accomplish the general mission of the event.
"The All-Army is designed to be the ultimate train-the-trainer event for marksmanship," said Lt. Col. Don King Jr, commander, USAMU. "We task these Soldiers to take what they learned this week and take it back to their units to increase the overall combat readiness of our Army."
Among the many highlights of the event was the increased participation of female Soldiers. Over the past decade of war, women have contributed in unprecedented ways to the Army's mission and have proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles. Those who attended this year's competition hope it opens the floodgates for more female attendance for years to come.
"This is my first All-Army but won't be my last," said Army Reservist Sgt. 1st Class Annette Habel, an Army Career Counselor hailing from Clairmont, Fla. "This has been so much fun, and I have met so many great people. I volunteered to come compete and am really glad I did.
The (combat pistol) team match was Habel's favorite part of the event, she said. They had to cross the finish line together and shoot together and that's what the Army teaches, to work as a team.
"I foresee that we're going to have more females come out next year and give the guys more competition," she added.
This championship allows Soldiers to test their marksmanship proficiency in challenging circumstances without the actual rigors of war so that when they are deployed they have the confidence and resources to win those battles, King said. The All-Army is really a training event cleverly disguised as a competition.
"I keep coming back because it is not only an opportunity not to meet and interact with other Soldiers from the guard, active (duty) and reserve," Moore said. "It allows me to pass on what we have learned over the years and teach it to novices, especially, to the cadets -- our future leaders -- and the other Soldiers who compete."
USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Accessions Brigade, Army Marketing and Research Group and is tasked with enhancing the Army's recruiting effort, raising the standard of Army marksmanship and furthering small arms research and development to enhance the Army's overall combat readiness.