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NEWS | April 24, 2024

VNG shooters excel at 2024 U.S. Army Small Arms Competition 

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Two teams of Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers and one Virginia Air National Guard Airman performed admirably during the 2024 U.S. Army Small Arms Championship, a week-long, All-Army marksmanship competition held March 10-16, 2024, at Fort Moore, Georgia. 

Sgt. Michael McClaskie, assigned to the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, was crowned Open Division champion at the competition. Additionally, he and Sgt. Daniel Shumate, assigned to the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, both earned the prestigious U.S. Army Distinguished Rifleman Badge. 

Overall, the Virginia teams performed very well against their counterparts from the active duty and Army Reserve components, according to Sgt. 1st Class Tony Hancock, the Virginia Army National Guard’s state marksmanship coordinator. Overall, Team Virginia placed ninth in the competition, which consisted of more than 230 shooters across all components. More than 50 teams participated, shooting in 14 courses of fire. 

“These types of competitions will humble the best of us,” said Hancock. “We observed and analyzed the opposing teams and individuals that performed well. We all collaborate as competitors and share tactics, techniques and procedures to refine and improve marksmanship skills. Armed with new techniques we will incorporate the training back to Virginia Guardsmen to ultimately increase individual and unit lethality.”

In addition to the individual awards and badges earned, four Guardsmen also earned leg points towards the Distinguished Pistol Badge, including McClaskie, Virginia Air National Guard Master Sgt. Ryan Hooper, VaARNG Staff Sgt. David Arbaugh and Staff Sgt. Colin Ryan. 

 The Distinguished Marksmanship Badge program dates back more than a century and continues to be the most prestigious honor for Army shooters. According to Hancock, fewer than 1% of Soldiers of Army Soldiers have ever earned the badge, and even fewer have been able to attain both the rifle and pistol version of the badge. 

“It’s worth mentioning that in the last 130 plus years, the Army has only accumulated 474 double distinguished shooters,” said Hancock. “These badges, along with the Distinguished International Shooter badge, are the most prestigious marksmanship badges Soldiers can earn in their military career.”

The competition doesn’t just return individual awards, but also provides a boost for the entire organization, according to Virginia’s shooters and trainers. 

“I believe it strengthens retention,” said Arbaugh, assigned to the VNG’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “Some of the soldiers develop a drive to become distinguished and want to be better marksman to get more opportunities to leg in pistol and rifle.”

Much of Virginia’s success in Guard marksmanship as well as All-Army competitions can be attributed to the success of the VNG’s Marksmanship Training Unit at the Fort Barfoot-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. 

“The mission for the MTU is to train, refine, and improve marksmanship techniques for individual soldiers that will ultimately increase individual and unit lethality,” said Hancock. “When our soldiers win and bring home team and individual awards, this validates our training.”

Read more about the 183rd RTI and the Marksmanship Training Unit at

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