Dozens of the nation’s top junior air-rifle shooters competed at the 2014 U.S. Army National Junior Air Rifle Championship Feb. 24-26 at Pool International Range Complex.
Hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), juniors between the ages of 14-18 from around the country competed for national titles in two divisions-Sporter and Precision-under the watchful eye of the USAMU’s world-class shooter/instructors
“I really enjoyed this match,” said Ashley Durham. “It was a huge honor to work with the AMU team. They are good at what they do, so to compete in front of them was really cool.”
Durham and her Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) teammates from Dalton McMichael (N.C.) High School brought home the Sporter Division title, holding off Fountain-Fort Carson High School. Durham led the way, adding the Sporter Division individual championship to her collection of trophies.
David Sink, from Columbia, Md., took home top honors in the Precision Division while he and his teammates from Queen Anne’s 4-H won the Precision national team championship.
Taking time out from training for the upcoming competition season, USAMU Soldiers from the International Rifle section provided instruction and mentorship for the competitors. For some of them, this match took them back to the days when they were a young shooter finding their way in the sport.
“I shot this very competition when I was a junior,” said Sgt. 1st Class Hank Gray. “It was hosted by the (National) Guard back then. It’s rewarding to go from a competitor to host and do the same thing for the future generation of shooters like it was done for me.”
The USAMU supports our nation’s youth by fostering junior participation in prestigious state and national rifle competitions, promoting firearms safety, and connecting them with the expertise and professionalism of the Army and its Soldiers. Gray said he and his teammates enjoyed the exchange with the junior shooters and the opportunity to answer their questions about shooting and the military.
“The neat thing about being a member of (the USAMU) is that we are looked at as the experts,” Gray said. “As a former junior shooter they know we have been there – they know the things we are going to tell them are things we experienced before. I made the same mistakes and this is how you get past them.”
Despite being billed as a national championship and the prestige that goes along with it, attendees said that the professionalism of the USAMU is what stood out the most at this year’s event.
“Being here has been very uplifting,” said retired Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Davis, who brought the McMichael High team to the match. “The USAMU made it more than just a fun match — they provided a learning environment. They were the first to step in and show the kids how to do something or another way of doing it.
“All of (the juniors) commented on how top notch the USAMU Soldiers are.”
USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Accessions Brigade, Army Marketing and Research Group and is tasked with enhancing the Army’s recruiting effort, raising the standard of Army marksmanship and furthering small arms research and development to enhance the Army’s overall combat readiness.
Images courtesy Michael Molinaro and Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Piper, USAMU