"I have to keep myself calm and focused when I am standing there with my shotgun waiting on that target to fly," said Capt. Michael Marano. "The best feeling in the world is turning that clay disc into dust."
Marano, ceremonies and special events officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), has enjoyed the sport of skeet and trap shooting since his sophomore year at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 2006. His passion and dedication to the sport would later lead him to a first place title at the 2013 World Skeet Championships.
Marano started shooting for sport because of an incident that sidelined him from his first love, football.
"I sustained a major injury to my shoulder and needed surgery," said Marano. "I had to look for a less impact sport so I joined the skeet and trap team."
Marano took to the new sport quickly. He competed in many collegiate shooting competitions; and by his senior year he was named team captain by his coach and peers.
"I really enjoyed my time as a leader on the team," said Marano. "We pushed each other to get better and to shoot more consistently."
Marano received orders to Germany following his graduation from the academy, and he wasn't allowed to bring his shotguns or compete overseas. He said he didn't go a day without thinking about the sport he loved during the three years he spent in Germany and his deployment to Afghanistan.
"It was pretty tough for me, but I knew that I would get back into the game when I got state-side," said Marano.
Marano's prayers were answered when he was assigned to The Old Guard in Arlington, Va.
"I was excited about the unit and my opportunity to start shooting again," said Marano. "I searched for different skeet and trap ranges in the area, and I went as often as I could."
Marano connected with a member of the U.S. Army Shotgun Team [USAST] during one of his training sessions.
The USAST competes in military, national, international and Olympic shooting competitions every year. The team finished in the middle of the pack during the 2013 Armed Forces Skeet Shooting Competition in Camp Lejuene, N.C.
"We did ok, but I felt as though I was still getting warmed-up," said Marano. "We kicked our training into high gear after the competition."
All of Marano's hard-work paid-off during the 2013 World Skeet Championship at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas. Marano placed first in the B-class category, hitting 438 out of 450 targets.
"The competition was tough, but my team helped me stay focused," said Marano. "I felt right at home on the range shooting those targets."
Marano considers it an honor to be a part of a team that represents the Army while also doing something he loves. He plans to continue shooting with the USAST as long as they will allow him.
"I am a very competitive guy," said Marano. "One great thing about this sport is that there is always something to learn."