News: Strike Brigade's Sharpshooter
Story by Sgt. Joe Padula
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — An expert shooter is a person who is of the highest ranking in precision firing. A pistol is a firearm designed for quick reaction while engaging close targets. Combine the two and the end result is a force that can cause extreme damage to its enemy.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), has such a force, and it comes in the form of a commissioned officer, 2nd Lt. Hannah Leadbetter, a maintenance platoon leader with the brigade's 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment.
From the first time she fired a weapon at a young age of nine-years-old, to the time her and her college teammates became national champions and even still when she competed in the M9 Combat Sprint and Stress Shoot during the Week of the Eagles competition, Leadbetter has always had a passion for hand-held firearms.
"The .22-caliber pistol, the .45-caliber pistol, the 9mm pistol, I love pistols," said Leadbetter.
The passion arrived when she fired her first weapon with her father who works as a range instructor in her home town of Warwick, N.Y.
"It was with a nine-millimeter, and I remember him and his buddies at work being surprised at how well I shot; I was naturally a good shot," said Leadbetter. "He was excited, I was exited and that's the moment when I fell in love with it."
Through the years, Leadbetter continued to perfect her talent at the ranges, but she needed competition and opposition to bring her to the next level. The high school she attended offered no shooting related sports, but when she attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, she fit right in with their shooting team.
"I was looking to see what sports I could do and remembered how much I loved shooting with my dad and how easy it came to me, so I tried out for the team and made it," said Leadbetter.
Not only did Leadbetter make the team in 2004, but she and her team went to the National Rifle Association National Outdoor Rifle and Pistol Championships that first year. She finished out her college career with the honors of being on the 2007 national championship team and personally placed third overall in the 2008 national championships.
The M-9 Combat Sprint and Stress Shoot is a highly respected event in the Marksmanship Competition during the Week of the Eagles.
Leadbetter shot her first M-9 pistol while attending the Tactical Defense Institute of Ohio in 2005. The prestige firearms school offers advanced training on weaponry and tactics for civilians, law enforcement and military personal.
"What I learned at TDI (the force-on-force training, vehicle cover concealment, handling of firearms) I can do with my Soldiers now," said Leadbetter.
Leadbetter officially qualified, as to the Army standards, with the M-9 pistol a week prior to the competition. She didn't just qualify either, she shot expert the very first attempt.
"I think that all Soldiers should be more familiar with hand-held firearms," said Leadbetter.
In comparison to rifles and shotguns, handguns are smaller, lighter and easier to carry. Users are also able to switch firing hands, depending of the situation.
"A former (USMA) teacher of mine was in Iraq as a company commander and she would go out on patrol with the pistol and the driver had a rifle," Leadbetter explained. "She would give the driver the pistol and she would use the rifle, driving and shooting a rifle at the same time just doesn't work, a pistol is more effective."
Leadbetter added another victory notch when she and her team partner, Spc. Joshua Maidenbaum, also with the 2nd Bn., 502nd In. Reg., won the Week of the Eagles marksmanship event for Strike Brigade, Aug. 14. To note though, Leadbetter and Maidenbaum's championship win was taken away because the competition was for battalion commander's and commander sergeant major's and above.
Modestly, Ledbetter credits her abilities to her father's teachings.
"My dad is the person I look up to, he's the one who taught me and he is, even now, the person I go to for questions about shooting and I know he has the answers," said Leadbetter.
Strike Brigade is very fortunate to have such a skilled shooter among its Soldiers and as a leader, Soldiers will learn from her ability and expertise.
Thanks to her, Strike can hold their heads up high and be proud of their sharpest shooter.