By Michelle Lunato, USAMU Public Affairs Chief
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Soldiers, friends and family of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) bid farewell to their outgoing commander, Lt. Col. James R. Barrows, and welcomed their incoming commander, Lt. Col. Harris T. Lawrence, during a Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Benning, Georgia June 26.
The USAMU's original mission, back during its creation in 1956, was to win marksmanship competitions to compete with the Soviet Union's well-organized shooting program. Today, that mission to win continues and at an impressive level, said Col. Oscar H. Pintado, the commander of the U.S. Army Marketing & Engagement Brigade who officiated the ceremony.
"Since then, members of the USAMU have gained worldwide respect by winning hundreds of individual and team titles....For the last two years, Jim Barrows has continued that legacy of excellence at the Home of Champions."
The win mission is not the only piece of the puzzle for the unique unit stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Now, on top of training to win competitions in shotgun, service pistol, service rifle, international rifle and action shooting, the Soldiers of the USAMU also have the missions of representing the Army and supporting unit readiness, continued Pintado, a Webster University graduate.
Between excelling at competitions, giving marksmanship demonstrations and attending tradeshows/community events, the USAMU Soldiers are leaving their mark on people not only across the United States, but people across the globe, said Pintado.
But it doesn't stop there. The USAMU Soldiers take all that experience from competition and turn it around to help train the warfighters across the Department of Defense, and Barrows has been part of that impact, he explained.
"Under his leadership, the USAMU has trained numerous generating and operational force units across all components, directly contributing to the Army's number one priority of readiness," said Pintado. "He has left a mark on the USAMU and our Army. His service legacy will live on and will have a long-lasting effect on this outfit for generations to come."
Barrows, who served as the USAMU commander for two years, took the podium and thanked Pintado for his trust and mentorship while in command.
The past two years were not the first experience Barrows had with the unit. When he was a captain, Barrows walked the USAMU halls and ranges as the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment commander. In both those roles, Barrows said his time at the USAMU would stay with him forever.
"This has truly been an awesome experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life," stated Barrows, a Texas A&M University graduate.
As Barrows looked out to the crowd of Soldiers, Army civilians and friends and family of the USAMU, he explained how he could talk about all the critical statistics on training and the impressive medals and titles in marksmanship the Soldiers have achieved. However, while those noteworthy accomplishments should not be overlooked, it was the people behind those numbers who he really wanted to acknowledge.
"What I really want to talk about, are the incredible people in the stands here today who make this place so special," said Barrows with sincerity. It was people who made it special for him as a captain, and it was people who continued to amaze him as a lieutenant colonel, he said.
The passion and drive to excel is not just in our competition teams, it's in the staff, the training team and the shop, said outgoing commander.
"The guys in the Custom Firearms Shop...where the only expectation is perfection, and are always working to get a little more accuracy. Their meticulous work and attention to detail is amazing," said Barrows.
Seeking and achieving excellence is just par for the course at the USAMU. But from a commander who has served in various assignments across the Army, including a deployment to Iraqi, he knows that not all organizations can succeed at reaching such high levels as a whole.
"It's pretty rare to be surrounded by so many people who wake up every day with one thing on their minds, and that's to be absolutely the best at what they do."
Though the journey with the USAMU has been a highlight of his 20 years of service in the Army, Barrows said he is looking forward to his next assignment, retiring and enjoying his family in Texas.
"I can't wait to be back home, and I love you very much," said Barrows to his wife Marie and son Connor.
With that, the new commander took the podium and quickly thanked Barrows for all his advice and information on the unique Army organization.
"Jim, you have been an absolute professional and a newly found friend throughout this whole transition process, and I thank you for that. I wish you the best of luck in the future and just know that your influence and dedication to this organization, as well as the Army, will have lasting impacts," said Lawrence.
Lawrence, who comes from an Infantry and Special Forces background, then looked to the crowd to acknowledge some special guests, Veterans of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
"It is for you we serve and it is your legacy that drives us to excel," said Lawrence who is an Arkansas State University graduate.
Lawrence then looked to the USAMU Soldiers, staff and family in the crowd to say they were the real reason behind the Change of Command Ceremony and he couldn't wait to be a part of their team.
"The majority of the distinguished guests here today, didn't come to see me nor even Lt. Col. Barrows. They came to see you-the champions, the ambassadors of our profession of arms, the Warrior-athletes and the Olympians," said the new commander. "And rightfully so, because the ceremony is not about the incoming nor outgoing commander. But it gives us a chance to pause and recognize the expertise, the warrior spirit and the commitment to our Nation that each formation and organization within the Army represents, and you embody those attributes to a degree achieved by very few. I look forward to serving within your ranks."