The United States Army Marksmanship Unit showcased the very best of their skills for VIP guests and Soldiers during Bowl Week for the 2018 US Army All-American Bowl at the San Antonio Gun Club, Jan. 4.

Since 1956, the USAMU has gained respect around the world for winning hundreds of individual and team competitions, including 40 World Championships and 20 Olympic medals. The team consists of the Army's top trap and skeet shooters who track, aim, and shoot at 5-inch clay targets using 12-gauge shotguns.

"Today we will be meeting and engaging with participants of the Army All-American Bowl here," said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Richmond, an Army Olympian and USAMU shooter instructor. "We will start by giving a brief unit history of our unit at Fort Benning, and how we impact the Big Army's mission. We will then break down into smaller groups where they will be given individual instruction from a professional shooter and end with an exhibition shooting shot-gun trick show."

During this special AAB event, civilian advocates for the Army, commonly known as Centers of Influence (COIs) were given the opportunity to shoot a 12-gauge shotgun.

"COIs can be anybody from a teacher, principal, or parent," said Richmond. Here at the San Antonio Gun Club, they represented universities, industry partners and non-profit organizations that amplify the Army message to future Soldiers.

Both inexperienced and experienced shooters within the COI group received a safety brief from Lt. Col. Jim Barrows, USAMU commander, and Sgt. 1st Class Richmond before pulling the trigger. For some participants, this was their first experience with firearms and the opportunity to shoot was electrifying.

"It was really exciting for me, the blood starts moving a little bit faster and so does your heart, it was exhilarating," exclaimed Dr. Donzell Lee, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Alcorn University. "I do not own a gun, and I've never shot one before."

The marksmen explained the importance of safety, assisted them in establishing a proper firing position, and most of all urged the guests to let go of their nerves and have fun; assuring them they would be safe.

"A lot of COIs who come out here have never touched a gun, we teach them stance how to mount, and safely load an unload a gun, and how to break a clay target; the basic fundamentals," said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Weeks, USAMU. "We take the skills that we have learned in competition and we make it fun and entertaining."

The Army All-American Bowl allows the USAMU the opportunity to educate COIs on the different opportunities the Army offers, strengthens partnerships and supports the Army's goal of recruiting a high quality force.

"We support the purpose and cause of the ROTC program," said Lee. "It's so vast, there are so many things you can do in the Army, we see the All-American Bowl events as a great learning experience and an opportunity to help develop strong leaders for the military."

USAMU Soldiers serve as ambassadors for the Army by showcasing their talent and the Army Values. These elite shooters leverage their natural marksmanship skills while serving their country at the same time.

"This is a great environment for us to introduce ourselves, tell our personal Army stories and tell the (COIs) what the Army has done for us," said Richmond. "They get to hear it from the horse's mouth, our individual Soldiers here, and they can then take it back to their small towns."