News: Biting the bullet, 1st Sgt. Mark Bearnson talks about the President’s Hundred competition and tab
Story by Spc. Jacqueline Guerrero
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. - Most people’s curiosity runs rampant when they see the President’s Hundred tab. The two most common guesses about this rare tab are either the carrier is one of the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or a guard for the President. First Sgt. Mark Bearnson clarifies on this subject revealing the truth behind the most rare of the four tabs available in the Army.
The tabs are used to identify a certain skill of a soldier or unit. The President’s Hundred tab signifies the top 100 shooters in the National Shooting Championships, which take place at Camp Perry, Ohio, said Bearnson, a field medic infantryman with the 10th Battalion 104th Division, which is a down trace unit of the 91st Training Division (Operations).
“In order to make the top 100 it takes a lot of work, a lot of years of practice,” said the Wanship, Utah, native.
The championships are in the first two weeks of August every year. The first day of that two-week period they fire a match known as the Presidents match. The President’s match has been around in one form or another since 1884, said Bearnson.
The top civilian teams from each state, top individual shooters from each state, as well as the top military teams from both active and reserve components fire in this competition, he said.
“Depending on the year, there will be anywhere from 1200 to 1500 people who compete in the championship,” explained Bearnson. “The top 100 finishers are known as the President’s Hundred for that year.”
The course of fire for the President’s Hundred match goes as follows: Ten shots are fired from 200 yards in the standing position, 10 shots are fired rapid fire from 300 yards in the prone position, which is 10 shots fired in 70 seconds. The last 10 shots are fired from 600 yards in the prone position again. However, those shots are fired at a much slower pace, he said.
“There are 300 points possible,” said Bearnson. “The target system is not a hit or miss -- it is actually a bulls’-eye target with scoring ranks. The center bulls’-eye is 10 points and the rings leading to the outside are 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5.”
Army personnel who place in the top 100 receive permanent orders and are known as the President’s Hundred. Those soldiers can wear that tab for the rest of their military career, he said.
Bearnson obtained the tab for the first time back in 1989.
“I ended up 10th place over all, out of a little over 1,500 people firing in the competition,” he said. “That is the highest I finished in the President’s match.”
It seems like the only two people who are remembered from the President’s match each year, are the person who wins it and the person who places 100th, said Bearnson.
“I have had the distinction of not winning the President’s match but I have placed 100th before” he said. “I am almost more proud of placing number 100 than I am of placing 10th.”
Bearnson has participated in the competition approximately 10 to 12 times. However, he has never placed first. As the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Army Reserve National Firing Team he hasn’t participated in 20 years.
“Being the NCOIC of the team is very intense and usually doesn’t afford me the opportunity to go out and fire because it is an all-day affair to fire those 30 shots,” he said. “Unfortunately, as much as it pains me to see 1,500 people out there shooting and all of my guys firing away, I just have too much to do to participate in the competition. I keep threatening that one of these days I’m going to bite the bullet and go out and shoot the match. Hopefully I can make it again.”
For those soldiers who are interested in attempting to compete for this rare tab, Bearnson has a few recommendations.
“I would say number one recommendation would be to get involved with the local civilian competitions and activities,” he said. “This could be local club shooting events and it doesn’t matter what type of firearm you use. Many times going to these competitions, there are organizations that sponsor these events. It allows people to just go down and see what these events are all about. You would be amazed at how many people have extra gear and ammunition for others to use.”
There are competitions within the Army that soldiers can participate in, as well. The most well known competition is the U.S. Army Small Arms Championships, held at Fort Benning, Ga., usually in the Spring, said Bearnson. Army Knowledge Online advertises in late November and early December for this competition.
“This course and competition is an excellent way for soldiers and units themselves to get advanced marksmanship training,” he said. “The Army Marksmanship Unit provides a small-arms firing school. The instructors cover all firing techniques, not only shooting techniques, but safety, sight adjustments and all of the little things soldiers don’t normally learn when they go through basic marksmanship courses.”
Passion is a must for any soldier willing to participate in this event.
“The big thing soldiers need more than anything, if they attend and fire in the U.S. Army Small Arms Championship, is a five-gallon bucket of enthusiasm,” said Bearnson. “If they can go out there with a lot of enthusiasm and if they can get ramped up for this, they will do absolutely fine in the course and event. They will learn more about marksmanship in a ten-day period then they have learned in their entire military careers.”
Participating in the U.S. Army Small Arms Championship is a great step closer to the Presidents Hundred match.
“Soldiers will learn so much about marksmanship. Steady position, breathing, aiming process and trigger squeeze,” said Bearnson. “They will learn so much about these fundamentals and this will lead them into the more advanced type of shooting.”
The U.S. Army Small Arms Championship offers firing awards as well.
“They are called the Excellence-in-Competition Badges,” said Bearnson. “You receive permanent orders for those, as well as a badge you can wear on your Class As.”
There are three different badges for rifle and pistol you can earn each year -- Bronze, silver and gold, said Bearnson.
“The gold badge is 14-carat gold and the Army engraves your name into the back of it,” he said.
On Bearnson’s ending note, he had one final message for all military units.
“I would really encourage units to look into the All Army Championships,” he said. “They have information about all of the Army Reserve’s shooting teams. There are links on usarshooters.org, which provides information on competitions and techniques on various types of shooting.”
This work, Biting the bullet, 1st Sgt. Mark Bearnson talks about the President’s Hundred competition and tab, by SPC Jacqueline Guerrero, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.