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NEWS | Oct. 6, 2020

Pa. National Guard Soldier sweeps marksmanship competitions

By Brad Rhen

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Like many Pennsylvanians, Sgt. Jason Goodling has been shooting hunting rifles since he was a kid. He never really considered himself an expert marksman, though.

That’s not the case anymore.

Goodling recently won two marksmanship competitions and was part of a team that won another.

He was the top scorer out of 105 competitors at the Governor’s Twenty match Aug. 14 to 15. He was then combined-arms individual overall champion out of over 50 competitors at The Adjutant General’s Combined Arms Match Aug. 21 to 23.

Finally, he was part of a team that won the overall aggregate team title the Marksmanship Advisory Council’s Region Two Championship Aug. 27 to 30. All three competitions were held at Fort Indiantown Gap.

Goodling, who is a range inspector for Range Control, part of the Fort Indiantown Gap Training Site, said he was surprised he did so well in the competitions.

“I’ve been shooting for a while but didn’t really expect it,” he said. “It’s definitely a significant accomplishment.”

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Tompko, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Marksmanship Training Unit, said winning both Governor’s Twenty and the TAG Match in the same year is a difficult feat.

“Especially with the amount of people who shot Governor’s Twenty, for one person to come in and win both is a pretty major accomplishment,” he said.

Tompko said Goodling is up there with the best shooters in Pennsylvania.

“He stopped shooting for a while, and he came back swinging, that’s for sure,” Tompko said. “In the state, he’s one of the top guys shooting right now.”

Although he has been hunting since he was about 12, Goodling, now 45, only really started shooting seriously at Basic Training in 2010 where he took “top gun.” After he got to his first unit, he asked if there were any shooting competitions he could participate in.

“I shot a match way back then and did horrible but learned and continued to attend matches, and eventually the Marksmanship Training Unit developed an interest, and they sent me to Arkansas to a small-arms firing school,” he said. “I went out there and learned to shoot with some top instructors, came back and continued to shoot.”

After a two-year break in service, Goodling reenlisted about a year and a half ago and picked back up where he left off and started doing some competitions.

“I don’t really have an explanation, I just started doing well,” he said.

Goodling said shooting comes naturally to him, and he’s able to pick things up quickly. A big part of doing well in competitions is repetition, he said.

“When it comes to matches, there’s two things you really need to succeed,” he said. “You have to have confidence in your weapon – you need to know your weapon and you need to know where it shoots – and you need to know the match – you need to know the course of fire, have it memorized inside and out. When you do that, it’s second nature. It’s all muscle memory.”

Goodling plans to continue shooting competitively for the foreseeable future. He hopes to compete in the All-Army championships in Georgia in 2021 and eventually hopes to join the All-Guard Marksmanship Team.

In addition, Goodling said, doing well in competitions earns shooters Excellence in Competition, or EIC, points. Once a shooter gets a certain number of points, they are considered distinguished and are awarded a special badge.

“The next step in shooting is to become distinguished, and I’m two pistol matches and one rifle match away from becoming distinguished,” he said.

Goodling lives in York Haven, York County, where he owns and operates an automotive shop.