Army shooters aim to influence Texans at bowl
January 12, 2010
By Tim Hipps
SAN ANTONIO (Jan. 12, 2010) -- The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shotgun team shared its skills with dozens of civilians at the San Antonio Gun Club as part of the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl activities.
Despite temperatures well below freezing, Staff Sgt. Josh Richmond and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Coffey exhibited a dazzling demonstration of shotgun shooting trickery Jan. 7 for centers of influence, or COI. A COI is a civilian who influences young people to consider the Army by enlisting or joining ROTC.
"The demo is one of our prized possessions we use as a marketing tool," Richmond said. "It's a way for us to interact with the crowd. We can tell a couple of jokes and laugh while people watch a quality shotgun presentation. We try to wow everybody in the crowd, whether it's a beginner or somebody who has shot for awhile."
Even for shotgun shooting aficionados, USAMU's competitive shooters put on quite a show.
"We try to do everything without touching the gun to our shoulder one time, which is kind of a unique trick in itself," Richmond explained.
"We do from the hip, behind the back, between the legs, over the head, and upside down with the gun. We generally do five of those shots apiece, and then we work up into multiples."
After the demonstration, several Soldiers invited the audience to step onto the range for hands-on instruction in trap and skeet shooting. Some had never handled a gun.
"Five or six instances today and yesterday, I've dealt with first-time shooters or maybe they've shot a few times when they were a kid," Richmond said. "People are not nervous at all. They are just stepping up there and taking a crack at it. They have confidence in our abilities.
They see how friendly, professional and knowledgeable we are, and that's very important to have when you're dealing with firearms."
Sgt. Walton Glenn Eller III, who won a gold medal in double trap at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and Sgt. Vincent Hancock, who struck gold in the same Olympic games, provided instruction for both novice and experienced shooters in San Antonio.
In between blowing clay pigeons out of the sky with a scattergun, San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Assistant Executive Director Pam Rew said her appreciation grew for the Army's efforts to promote itself and San Antonio through the All-American Bowl.
"The Army is fun," she said. "Between the rodeo and the bowl game, anything that brings attention to downtown San Antonio in winter is fabulous. I think people like to come to San Antonio year round."
The commander of the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion got more bang for his buck this year with the AMU.
"At last year's bowl game the team was only here for one day and we only had a few COIs visit with them," said Lt. Col. Tom Ellis. "They were here for three days this year. I was able to get 15 new COIs out to the range the first day."
Rew brought two other rodeo officials with her on Jan. 7. Ellis says the rodeo and the bowl game are the biggest events in San Antonio each winter.
"A lot of high school and college classes and 4H clubs go to the rodeo each year," Ellis said. "I'm glad we got to expose the Army to these people who help run it."
Training and competition keep the AMU Soldiers earning national and Olympic titles, but the Soldiers realize the value of supporting the accessions mission.
"We come here to put a positive light on the Army," Richmond said. "We want to show these COIs that we're not only Soldiers, but we're real people inside, and that we came from all different backgrounds and all walks of life."
"The Army is our tool that we use to get us to our dreams and to get us to the points that we want to be as adults. When these COIs go home, maybe they can see their own kids or people in their high schools that don't really have a place to go or an idea what they want to do. This is a positive way to give that information to them so they can take it back and spread it around."
Ellis could see the payoff in the demo with the COIs he accompanied to the gun club.
"The COIs are very impressed by what the Army has done with these AMU soldiers," Ellis said. "These guys join the Army at 18 and at 23 they are national champions."