CAMP PERRY, Ohio (July 31, 2016)--Spc. Anthony Heinauer's father, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, and his grandfather, a Vietnam veteran, both set examples for him as Soldiers serving their nation.
Yet, while he aspired to follow in their footsteps, he wanted to do it on his own terms, especially after he attended a U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit junior workshop when he was a teenager.
"It was actually a dream I had when I was 13 and went to the Army Marksmanship Unit junior clinic," he said July 14 while competing in the 2016 National Trophy Pistol Matches. "They taught me a lot, and I told my father that was the kind of dream job I wanted."
From then on, Anthony spent as much time on the range as he did at school.
His regimen paid off. By age 17, USAMU was looking at Anthony as a possible new member of the unit.
His father, Sgt. Major Keith Heinauer, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, started Anthony on his path to the USAMU by introducing him to action shooting when he was 12.
"It was more action shooting--practical shooting style--and he took to that pretty good," he said.
Practical shooting evolved from national and international private individuals, military members and law enforcement officers who experimented with different types of self-defense techniques for handguns, according to the U.S. Practical Shooting Association website.
Heinauer said while he knew Anthony was interested in a career in shooting sports, he had talked about Anthony going to college for a couple of years--even looking at West Point-- and then making a decision after that.
"But, I had taken him to the AMU junior clinic, he had met some of the action shooting team and that's what drove him," he said.
Then, Heinauer took Anthony to the National Trophy Pistol Matches, a bull's-eye competition where precision shooting is king.
"It was just a whole different animal for him, because he grew up shooting action," he said.
After that, the 24-year Army veteran knew his son was passionate about joining the elite USAMU Service Pistol Team, but knowing his son was new to bull's-eye, he wanted to guide and advise him.
"He struggled a bit with bull's-eye shooting, but he did learn the fundamentals of the sport," Heinauer said.
And Anthony's dream came true when he joined the Army in 2014.
"I am very grateful to be in the Army and the AMU," he said. "Sometimes I wake up, and I can't believe it happened. The Army supplies me with everything--ammo, equipment, great ranges, the best training-- and the time I need to perfect my craft."
And Anthony has improved his marksmanship skills immensely in the past two years, his dad said.
Although his father has been the distinguished bull's-eye marksman in the family starting in 2004, recently his son has caught up to him.
"Right now, my dad is my biggest rival and we are within points of each other," Anthony said about the 2016 National Trophy Pistol Matches. "Every year we come out here and it's a back and forth battle between him and me."
But there are no hard feelings between them, only the best of intentions from a proud parent.
"I'm hoping he is able to accomplish what he wants to do, whether it's to stay on this team for the next 10 years or whether it's to go do something else," his father said. "I am sure he has the ability and the will to accomplish anything that he wants to do."
For more information about junior clinics, visit the USAMU website.
Editor's Note: The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit's mission is winning national and international shooting competitions and advancing small-arms lethality to demonstrate Army marksmanship capability and enhance marksmanship effectiveness in combat. USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Accessions Brigade and Army Marketing and Research Group.