By By John Wayne Liston, U.S. Army Cadet CommandFebruary 8, 2012
After a record a record-setting 2010-11 season that saw Army Junior ROTC shooters sweep the sporter class team and individual awards at last year's JROTC All-Service Championship, Cadets are taking aim at another successful run this weekend.
The Army JROTC Service Championship begins tomorrow and crowns champions Saturday. And as the event nears, teams have been working for a shot at a berth in this spring's national meet.
Army teams last year were led by Daleville (Ala.) High School's Mikaelah Atchley and Ozark (Mo.) High School Tessa Howald. Atchley, who has since graduated, set an Army record for the overall 3x20 sporter category and captured the individual title, and Howald led her battalion to the team crown.
Only a record-setting performance by two Marine Corps teams kept Cadet Kevin Cruz (third place individual precision category) and his Conquest Rifles squad of Del Valle (Texas) High School from the top spot in the precision category.
Cadets who qualified through the Army's recent JROTC Air Rifle Postal Competition head to the Civilian Marksmanship Program's training centers at Anniston, Ala., or Camp Perry, Ohio, to compete this weekend in the 2012 Army JROTC Service Championship. Cadets from Cadet Command's 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 8th brigades go to Camp Perry, while those from the 4th, 5th and 6th brigades head to Anniston.
Awards will be given at both locations, followed by the results being combined and the top scorers advancing to the all-services national championship March 22-24 in Anniston.
Cadets compete in two different three-position air rifle events. Precision air rifle is modeled after Olympic-style shooting and allows the use of specialized target rifles and shooting equipment. Sporter air rifle is designed for competitors who want to compete with little customization or specialized shooting equipment.
In both types of shooting, competitors fire at targets from a distance of 10 meters in the prone, standing and kneeling positions.
Marksmanship is a cerebral sport, forcing competitors to maintain concentration, discipline and focus.
"People say marksmanship is 98 percent mental and 2 percent physical," said Vicki Donoho, program coordinator from the Civilian Marksmanship Program.
The CMP, a national organization created by law in 1996 and the organization that runs the competitions, is dedicated to training and educating responsible uses of firearms and airguns. The CMP trained 2,265 Army Junior ROTC Cadets in 2010 and more than 8,000 Cadets from all United States JROTC programs. It has also awarded 53 scholarships to Army Cadets during the past year.
"This sport reinforces the values we want to see in our Cadets: self-discipline, focus, personal courage, integrity and accountability," said Leon McMullen, deputy director for Army JROTC. "You can't just walk out on the firing line and shoot competitively; it takes a lot of practice. If Cadets maintain their focus and self-discipline, this sport can help them become better citizens and even take them all the way to the Olympics."
Ozark and Daleville expect to renew their rivalry, as well as getting strong competition from other teams.
"Mikaelah is gone now, but we've got four (Cadets) now that can flat shoot it," said Lt. Col. Ralph Aaron, senior Army instructor for Daleville. "We are a more evenly matched team, and we will be competitive."
So will Ozark, despite a major change.
"Our sporter team decided to move up to the precision category after last year's national championship, and they are enjoying the new challenge of it," said 1st Sgt. Terry Thompson, Ozark instructor. "With our younger shooters moving up into the sporter team we have a chance to have two teams in the competitions.
"These competitions are a great time. These kids get to know each other. They compete hard, but it's always done in friendship and good sportsmanship."