By Michael Molinaro, USAMU PAONovember 20, 2009
Fort Benning, Ga. - Junior shooters from across the country descended on Fort Benning Nov. 6-8 as the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit's Action Shooting team hosted a junior camp at Krilling Range.
With two national champions, a two-time international sniper champion and a previous attendee at the camp among the instructors, the opportunity to learn from the best was a chance 48 of the top up-and-comers in action shooting couldn't pass up.
"I needed more training, and my Mom thought if I came here I would meet new friends and have a lot fun," said 9-year-old Lee Wills, the camp's youngest participant and a native of Gainesville, Va. "She was really right."
The kids were picked to attend the camp after a thorough selection process, said SFC Aaron Hampton, the camp director. Each junior had to meet criteria such as being a ranked U.S. Practical Shooting Association competitor or able to show a good deal of shooting experience.
"This isn't a beginner's class," Hampton said. "By no means is it geared to teach the fundamentals. Our goal is to help grow the sport."
Once the criteria was met, the prospective campers had to submit an essay on what they wanted to gain from being at the camp and what the Second Amendment meant to them. Many submissions included a fondness for the Army and desires to one day join the ranks.
"I wanted it to be something that was personal and heartfelt but also something that they'd have to spend a little bit of time to research and understand," Hampton said. "If you have 9-year-olds who can write you a two-page essay on the Second Amendment, they probably want to show up. It was designed to be a litmus test on how dedicated they were."
Attendees had the opportunity to learn from the best. SGT Daniel Horner, who recently won the Multi-Gun National championship in Boulder City, Nev., worked with the juniors on drawing and accuracy. SFC Robby Johnson, a two-time International Sniper Competition champion, gave a block of instruction on the introduction to the rifle. The attendees also learned movement techniques, transitions, and reloads.
"I was here last year and had lots of fun," said Mark Saffery, a 13-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla. "I've been competing for three years now. This camp is the best part of the year. We get to learn something from every AMU mentor. They are so awesome and really great guys."
Instructing campers on reloads was PVT Shane Coley, the newest member of USAMU, who attended the camp last fall during its inaugural year. Before attending the camp, Coley said he didn't have plans on joining the Army. That changed after the camp.
"It helped me so much when I came here," Coley said, who arrived at the USAMU after completing basic and advanced individual training three weeks ago. "I got to meet a bunch of new people in the sport, but I also had great mentors and great teachers in the Soldiers on the team.