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    Top teens compete at National Air Rifle Championship

    Top Precision shooters

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Joel Quebec | Anniston, Ala., was the site for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps National...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. 1st Class Joel Quebec 

    314th Theater Public Affairs Support Element

    ANNISTON, Ala. – For some high school athletes, there is no better way to spend a weekend than traveling for hours to lie on the floor and shoot an air rifle at a small target 45.5 millimeters in diameter and 10 meters (33 feet) away.

    More than 200 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet athletes gathered at the Civilian Marksmanship Program air rifle range in Anniston, Alabama, on March 17-19, to determine who would bring home the 2016 JROTC National Air Rifle Championship.

    The shooters represented 73 high schools fielding 56 teams from across the country. Through a series of multiple shooting competitions, individuals and teams qualify to compete in the National Championship by defeating thousands of other shooters. As in many American colleges and universities, each high school’s JROTC program is affiliated with one of the four United States Armed Forces: Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy. Many universities also have rifle teams and scouts attend such events looking for the best shooters for their programs.

    The event is a 3x20 air rifle match, meaning competitors fire 20 record shots from three positions: prone, standing and kneeling. There are two classes of firing, Sporter and Precision. The Sporter class shooters wear what they want, some in uniform-esque garb and their rifles are basic, with a cost ceiling of $525.00. The Precision shooters wear canvas and leather outfits that add stability while shooting by limiting the body movement of the athlete. The outfit, like the precision rifle, can easily cost four digits west of the decimal. The costs compared to the gain seem well worth the sacrifice to coaches, parents and especially the shooters.

    Being on his school’s rifle team has had many benefits for Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Hunter Jacob of Sarasota Military Academy.

    “It challenges you, not just mentally, but physically as well,” he said. “Having to learn your body and what it can do and what you need to improve on and also having the mental fortitude to be able to control yourself ... and get your priorities set ... to do what you know how to do.”

    Jacob also stated that being on the rifle team has helped him set goals and challenges and overcome them.

    Self-discipline is a commonly cited benefit.

    “Some of these kids come from a tough background,” said Lt. j.g. Nathan Bourdeau, the coach for Gainesville high School in Georgia. “They learn self-control and to manage themselves and they see the payoff in a very tangible way.”

    Bourdeau’s shooters echoed his thoughts.

    “Personally, [what] I get out of the rifle team discipline and maturity,” said sophomore Luz Acosta. “Because you have to have the discipline to stay calm, you have to be mature because if you weren’t, you would be shooting horribly.”

    Senior Talisa Soto added, “Participation in JROTC gave me discipline, commitment, dedication and [being] mentally ready for the real life. I know how to just focus on one thing and try not to get distracted.”

    Walla Walla High School senior and Cadet Maj. Madeline Erikson, who has also played basketball and softball said, “For me it’s a sport where I can directly apply and see a direct result. With rifle I know where I am. With practice I can see direct improvement.”

    Erikson’s team mate Cadet Maj. Sabrina Keenan said, “It helps me focus. If I can focus for two hours on a circle then I can probably focus on a math test.”

    Parents also see the benefits of their children’s participation in the program.

    “You can see it in their behavior,” said Darci Jacob. “Hunter has more self-confidence and pride since joining the [rifle] team.”

    “Steven [Lester] has learned respect and team-building skills in the [JROTC] program,” said Louise Lester another Sarasota parent.

    In contrast to the average high school student who doesn’t participate in in the program, retired Sgt. 1st Class and former Army Ranger Mark Mebes stated, “It exposes them to things to a segment of life that they wouldn’t normally be exposed to. I think it’s important for young kids to get as many experiences as they can when they’re forming their view of the world.”

    One of his shooters, Cadet Capt. Evan Jamison agreed.

    “I don’t think they really know how to get out of their comfort zone with people,” he said. “They stay in their cliques and friend groups, which is too bad because once they get out past high school and past college, they won’t really have that experience with people different than themselves.”

    Mebes is the coach for Walla Walla High School in Washington, one of the oldest JROTC programs in the country and he has built his program to reflect the values of a Ranger unit, living by the creed, “Earn it every day.” He has 85 shooters on his team and only 10 can be Sporters. Seven members make up the Precision squad and only four can travel to the National Championship. Mebes refers to his Precision shooters as “the elite” similar to Army Special Forces in nature and concept as not everyone can be on that team.

    Each individual is responsible for his or her own advancement through countless hours of practice and determination, making each cadet better and better.
    As a result of the team’s overall structure, one of Mebes’ shooters was being scouted by the rifle coach of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Another had won last year’s National Championship as an individual. Another was the Junior World Three-gun Champion, a non-JROTC shooting competition in 2015. Senior and Cadet Maj. Sabrina Keenan is the 2016 JROTC-Army Champion and will attend the Naval Academy Prep school after graduation.

    Another major theme mentioned consistently is that of family.

    “We’re kind of like a family,” said Walla Walla’s Daniel Enger. “Except we’re a little dysfunctional. But when it comes down to hard times we all come together and we know how to get through it.” Enger was the 2015 Precision National Champion.

    When asked about her team, Keenan stated unequivocally, “They’re my family. They’re definitely my family.”

    “These girls are like sisters,” said Gainesville coach Bourdeau. “They don’t just shoot on the team, they’re almost inseparable, they do everything together.”

    “We’re all a giant family,” said Hunter Jacob. “They’re my brothers and my sisters, I love them all and I’d do anything for them."

    “The program positively contributes to their successful accomplishment of goals throughout their lifetimes,” said Col. Thomas Bell, Director of the JROTC program.

    “The benefits our Cadets receive from participating in this air rifle competition far exceed the ability to consistently hit the targets accurately. The real win for them is in the tangible attributes such as focus, discipline, perseverance and teamwork, which will serve these young people long after their competition days have ended.”



    Date Taken: 03.19.2016
    Date Posted: 03.22.2016 19:20
    Story ID: 193179
    Location: ANNISTON, AL, US 

    Web Views: 238
    Downloads: 2