QUANTICO, Va. --
There are marksmen, and then there are marksmen like Special Agent David Ohlinger.
On July 25, 2017, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Technical Services instructor with the Special Investigations Academy Operating Location-A cyber division at Fort Washington, Md., will officially be recognized for earning the Air Force Distinguished Rifleman Badge.
It’s the highest individual award for excellence in marksmanship competitions authorized by the U.S. Government open to all civilians and all military branches.
“This will be the culmination of a very long road of training and competition to earn enough award points to attain distinguished ranking in the nation,” SA Ohlinger said. “With the increased difficulty of the (Excellence-In-Competition) matches, and the limited number of EIC matches you’re allowed to compete in each year, the honor of being named a Distinguished Rifleman is truly a lifetime achievement.”
To put his accomplishment in perspective, of the 7,940 distinguished rifle badges awarded since the competition’s inaugural year of 1884, only 2,332 have been awarded to civilians, while the majority of the rest have been awarded to Army and Marine marksmen.
“In the (nearly 70 year) history of the Air Force, I’m the 353rd person to attain this major milestone,” Agent Ohlinger said. “My badge is engraved with my name and badge number (353) marking this event.”
His road to national prominence began in 2006 when he started to shoot competitively. He attended his first National Matches in 2007.
“While competing in the national matches I was recruited to compete for the Air Force Rifle Team. I was a walk-on for the team that year,” SA Ohlinger said.
Since then he’s missed only the National Matches in 2009 for OSI training and in 2012 for his assignment to Joint Base Andrews, Md., and technical services training.
In 2014, Agent Ohlinger refocused his training efforts to earn the AF Distinguished Rifleman Badge. He needed to accumulate 30 points while on active duty, in the guard or reserve. He earned his first six points in 2014 by placing third in one EIC match and picked up another eight points for being ranked in the top 10 percent of all shooters in the Daniel Boone individual trophy match at the National Matches that same year.
“In 2015, I struggled to gain points,” SA Ohlinger said. “Sitting at 14 points I was concerned I wouldn’t reach my goal. Even though those points would never go away, if I finished after leaving active duty, I would earn a civilian badge instead of the Air Force badge.
Military competitors may only enter three EIC matches a year while civilians are allowed five matches per year. Points that count toward becoming distinguished are only awarded during EIC matches.
“In 2016, I started off slow competition-wise. Then, on Oct. 2nd I took first place to gain eight points and Oct. 15 I finished first again for 10 points to put me over the top,” Agent Ohlinger recalled.”
His perseverance will pay off July 25 when he’s recognized at the National Matches Award Ceremony at Camp Perry, Ohio, where President Theodore Roosevelt and the director of the National Rifle Association established the Matches in response to the Nation’s desire to improve military marksmanship and national defense preparedness.
They also created the Civilian Marksmanship Program to promote rifle practice and firearms safety. The program partners with the NRA to run the National Matches.
The matches showcase approximately 6,000 participants annually from all military branches, active duty, guard and reserve. Civilians comprise the majority of the participants to include law enforcement, with shooters ranging from 10 to 80 years old.
A standard match consists of four unsupported stages with an AR-15 or M-16 civilian variant weapon using two sights and scoring 20 shots from the standing position at 200 yards, sitting position at 200 yards, prone position at 300 yards and prone position at 600 yards. The 200 yard standing and 600 yard prone positions are slow fire while the 200 yard sitting and 300 yard prone are rapid fire. All stages are timed. Eighty shots are scored with a maximum score of 800.
Meanwhile, EIC matches use no sights and score only 50 shots. They have four unsupported stages starting with 10 shots from the standing position at 200 yards, sitting position rapid fire at 200 yards, prone position rapid fire at 300 yards and 20 shots from the prone position slow fire at 600 yards. The maximum score is 500. The top 10 percent of participants are awarded points ranging from six to 10 based on the shooter’s place in the event and total number of shooters.
“It’s really a competition against yourself,” SA Ohlinger said. “It’s a mental game just as much as a physical ability.”