By Sgt. Elizabeth Cole, 9th Mission Support CommandNovember 4, 2013
HONOLULU -- Expert marksmanship is a common goal for all branches of the military, and among the ranks of the 9th Mission Support Command are two Soldiers who are taking their marksmanship proficiency to the next level.
Master Sgt. Robert Mango, infantry senior sergeant, and Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson, infantryman, both with the 4960th Multi-Function Training Brigade, 9th MSC, are lauded as world-class athletes, consistently bringing home top prizes for their expertise in pistol and rifle marksmanship.
As members of various marksmanship teams, including the Army Reserve Marksmanship Team and the U.S. Army World Athlete Program, Mango and Sanderson most recently won first and second place, respectively, in the 2013 Hawaii State Pistol Championship, held here, Oct. 19-20.
For the better part of a decade, the two have journeyed across America and around the world, participating in a variety of competitions. Among other distinctions, Mango is ranked in the top five of all high-power service rifle and pistol shooters in the U.S., while Sanderson is a two-time Olympian.
Following in each other's footsteps, both Sanderson and Mango have made marksmanship their life's passion, each spending eight years in the Marine Corps' Competition in Arms program before joining the Army's shooting team and ultimately going into the Army Reserve.
What's even more interesting is that the two also have the same civilian job and are in the same Reserve unit.
When not on the road competing, Mango and Sanderson spend their days teaching Marines marksmanship at Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kaneohe Bay.
As warrior citizens in the 4960th MFTB, the two use their expertise to train 9th MSC Soldiers.
"Being a competitor validates what I do when I'm training Army Reserve Soldiers and the Marine Corps," said Sanderson. "If I'm teaching, I can say, 'Hey, you know, I'm pretty good. I was in the Olympics.'"
Mango said that with the skills he's learned shooting in high-level competitions, he's able to teach tomorrow's leaders how to more effectively save lives in combat.
"The stress and mental discipline needed to succeed in competition is very similar to the skills needed to survive in a firefight," said Mango.
In addition to becoming friends, over the years, Mango and Sanderson have developed a mutual respect and hold each other on the highest of pedestals.
"I wouldn't have had near the success this year without Keith's influence," said Mango. "He has a deep-rooted passion to train and win in everything he competes with."
Sanderson echoed Mango's sentiments.
"I remember just being totally in awe of Mango's instructor abilities," said Sanderson. "He still challenges me to constantly improve as both an instructor and a shooter."
"If you surround yourself with excellence, you can achieve greater goals and accomplishments," said Mango.