USAMU’s Cleland Earns Mountain Man Trophy for Second Year at 2023 National Rifle Events
August 16, 2023Civilian Marksmanship Program▸The First Shot▸USAMU’s Cleland Earns Mountain Man Trophy for Second Year at 2023 National Rifle Events
With his consistent top scores on the range during the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s 2023 National Trophy Rifle Matches, Staff Sgt. Ben Cleland, 30, of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), earned the Mountain Man Trophy for the second consecutive year. The award is a culmination of repeated excellence in the President’s, National Trophy Individual (NTI) and National Trophy Team (NTT) events and a sought after recognition at the annual National Matches – especially by Cleland himself.
“I really wanted to win the Mountain Man,” he said. “I had it in my mind that even if one specific match or piece of it didn’t go well, I was just going to try my best at the best aggregate score I could.”
“It’s the biggest one for me,” he went on of the Mountain Man Trophy. “It’s the aggregate of all the matches, so I feel like that’s kind of the most important one. It shows you were consistently good all week.”
Before reaching the National Trophy Rifle events, Staff Sgt. Cleland competed in the CMP Highpower series the week prior and led the Service Rifle 2400 Aggregate. His performance gave him confidence in his equipment going into the first of the Trophy events, the prestigious President’s Rifle Match, where he finished second overall.
“It could’ve been worse,” he joked of his finish. “Obviously, you want to win everything you can, but I shot as good as I could, so, can’t be mad about that.”
Cleland fell just two points short of USMAU teammate Staff Sgt. Verne Conant, 27, who dropped one point overall to accumulate an incredible score of 399-20X.
Next on the schedule was the NTI, where Cleland managed to grab the overall win by x-count with a score of 496-28X.
“I’ve always wanted to win it. This year was just the year, I guess,” Cleland said of the NTI. “It always felt like I was real close, it just wasn’t quite enough.”
He had struggled to reach the top of the NTI in the past, finishing in third at last year’s National Matches and within the top 10 on multiple occasions. Claiming the win at last marked a longtime goal for Cleland.
“It was a relief, after trying so many times, to finally get there,” he admitted. “It was a huge relief.”
Now that he’s met his NTI ambition, he’ll continue to seek the Mountain Man Trophy in the future with the hopes of one day reaching that President’s Match win.
“I’m going to continue to set my goal on the Mountain Man,” he said. “I feel as a part of that, I’ll win a President’s along the way.”
In junior events at the 2023 National Matches, Golden Eagle Trophy (High Junior NTI) and Alice Bull Trophy winner (President’s/NTI Aggregate) Thomas McGowan, 18, of Hortonville, WI, met with partner Kacie McGowan, 15, to reach a combined score of 972-30X as WI Cheddar to overtake the National Trophy Junior Team event. McGowan also earned the Col. Bill Deneke Trophy as the leading competitor in the President’s/NTI/Junior Team Aggregate.
Other team events saw USAMU members Sgt. Shane Butler and Spc. Zevin Linse blending talents to rack up a score of 590-22X for the win in the Hearst Doubles paired event, while Butler went on to join teammates Staff Sgt. Conant, Staff Sgt. Cleland, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Green, Staff Sgt. David Bahten and Staff Sgt. Jarod McGaffic to lead overall in the NTT.
During the National Trophy Infantry Team event, civilian-led VFEMI (Alvin Bethel, Clyde Bryant, MAJ Marc Cichowicz, Robert Menuet, GySgt James Otto and CW04 Vincent Pope) bested the USAMU by nearly 50 points for the win. High junior team CA Grizzlies Team Dillon Precision took third.
Also earning notable awards was Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Elsenboss, 34, of the All Guard team and Williamsburg, VA, who earned the High Woman title in the President’s Match and went on to claim the Woman’s Trophy in the NTI match. For her performances, Elsenboss was named the high overall woman in the President’s/NTI/NTT Aggregate.
Find a complete list of results of the National Trophy Rifle events at https://ct.thecmp.org/23NMRifleResults. Photos of the matches may be viewed and downloaded for free at https://cmp1.zenfolio.com/f148616975.