The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit continued its support of America's youth when it hosted the 2010 U.S. Army Junior Air Rifle Championships March 21-23 at Fort Benning's Pool Indoor Range.

This was the fourth year the Army sponsored the event, fostering junior participation in state and national rifle competitions, promoting firearms safety and connecting the youngsters with the expertise of the USAMU.

"Youth shooting programs require dedicated mentors in order to be successful and U.S. Army Soldiers are the ideal mentors and role models for our Nation's youth," said LTC Daniel Hodne, commander, USAMU. "The Army's involvement in youth shooting programs is a perfect fit; the USAMU is designed to fill this role. We teach, coach, and mentor junior shooters on a weekly basis."

The competition is conducted in two phases: a state championship postal phase and the national championships, said SFC Kevin Heermann, accessions liaison, USAMU. State championship matches enable sporter- and precision-class position juniors of all marksmanship levels an opportunity to test their talent against other junior shooters in their home states.

"Coming from numerous shooting clubs, high schools, junior ROTC's, 4-H and other organizations, there were more than 900 initial entries from 41 states participating in this year's state qualifying matches," he said. "The best state championship teams then are invited to compete against the top junior teams and shooters in the nation, along with the ten highest ranking at-large individual competitors in each class, at the National Championship."

In the precision class, the Fort Benning Junior Rifle Club, took home first place in the team category. The Delta Rifles, from Alaska, came in second. Emily Holsopple, of Wilcox, Pa., won the individual championship. Arielle Mouhot, of Columbus, came in second and Catherine Green, of Coventry, R.I., finished in third place.

In the sporter class, the King George Navy JROTC, Va., team won the championship. They were followed by Zion Bention High School, Ill. Christopher Potts, of New Market, Ala., won the sporter class individual championship. Tyler Rico, of Tuscon, Ariz., was the runner-up and Mikaelah Atchley, of Daleville, Ala., came in third.

The intense preparation for the competition makes all of the competitors winners before they even arrive, Hodne said. Becoming a good shooter requires discipline, focus, and commitment, all essential traits that translate directly to success in life. Sixteen of the competitors at the championships will carry those traits with them to the military upon graduation from high school.

"These fine young men and women made a decision that will undoubtedly produce a profound positive impact, not only on their own lives, but also on the military," Hodne said.

"I know it's going to open up a lot of opportunities," said Kamaren Braxton, of New Market, Ala., who will enroll in the Auburn University ROTC program on a scholarship this fall. "If you're in the Army, it makes you a better leader and makes you better prepared for the real world."