FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - A Pennsylvania National Guard Soldier placed second overall at the 2023 U.S. Army Small Arms Championships.
Maj. Ian Swisher of the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, finished second out of 260 competing service members March 12-18 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Swisher finished behind Maj. Samuel Freeman of the South Carolina Army National Guard, who won the Overall All-Army Individual Champion title with the highest aggregate score from all the individual matches.
Swisher placed third in the U.S. Army Rifle Individual Championship. Freeman won the event, and 1st Lt. John Pitman of the Army Reserve placed second.
Swisher was also one of five competitors who earned the U.S. Army Distinguished Pistol Shot Badge. That made him the 473rd Soldier to be double distinguished in both pistol and rifle since the program was created in 1894 for service rifle and in 1901 for service pistol.
Despite the high level of competition, Swisher said he was not particularly surprised he placed as well as he did.
“I knew if I could shoot a clean mental match, stay within my shot process, and only focus on breaking the next shot well, then the match bulletin would accurately reflect my comparative abilities,” he said. “The desire to win, make it to the podium, or simply place better than you have before is inherent to competition, but those things don’t happen just by wanting them or thinking about them – they happen when you do all of the little things correctly.
“It’s been quipped that the winner is the person who makes the least number of mistakes, and that is certainly true in this game,” he added.
The annual competition, better known as the “All-Army,” is hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit with the Maneuver Center of Excellence to advance marksmanship across the Army.
The week-long competition included active-duty Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Air National Guard and Space Force participants.
Competitors experienced diverse levels of marksmanship during the All-Army and competed as individuals and on teams in events like Pistol and Rifle Excellence in Competition matches, combat rifle and pistol matches, and multi-gun courses of fire.
“Marksmanship competitions are difficult in the same way anything worth doing is difficult,” Swisher said. “They’ll teach you a lot about yourself, how you deal with adversity, how you handle success, etc. It’s always advantageous to have good teammates who help each other through valleys and across peaks.”
It’s easy to forget that marksmanship competitions are training events, and effective training challenges participants to learn and improve, Swisher said.
“At its grassroots, the Army Competitive Marksmanship Program is intended to develop marksmen and raise the standards of proficiency across the force in one of the most basic skills a Soldier has – engaging targets with your individual weapon at varying distances,” he said. “With this understanding in mind, I say the more difficult, the better.”
Swisher is the executive officer of the 103rd BEB and works full time as a regional integration team civil works planner for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.