MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, VA, UNITED STATES
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. - Biting flies and gnats buzzed around the line of tightly-cropped haircuts in the sweltering Virginia heat as the shooters lined up to take aim at targets 600 yards away.
Sparsely dotted between the military buzz cuts, tightly wound hair buns peaked out from beneath covers – only a handful of female shooters throw their hats into the competitive marksmanship circuit of the armed forces.
At the 50th Annual Interservice Rifle Championship, only 10 service women joined the 103 male competitors for two weeks of competing as teams and individuals.
“I really think that women have it in them to shoot, but they get put off [from the sport] because it’s so dominated by males,” said Cpl. Angela Newsome, a Springfield, Mass., native and member of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Shooting Team.
In an effort to encourage more female participation in the Competition-in-Arms Program, the interservice championship matches boast a High Service Woman, or “Annie Oakley,” award for the best female shooters in the matches. Sgt. Sherri Jo Gallagher of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit won the Annie Oakley trophy this year.
“It’s encouraging to have a category just for females,” said Newsome.
Competitive shooting, unlike other sports available to service members, is not divided by gender differences.
Aside from the unique Annie Oakley award, individual matches pit the military’s best shooters against each other, regardless of sex.
Shooting better than all her peers, Gallagher also won an award for best individual shooter at the 600-yard line.
“The best part [of being able to compete] is coming out here and out-shooting a lot of the men,” said Cpl. Nancy Zelaya, a Rockville, Md., native and member of the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Shooting Team.
Zelaya explained that there is a common misconception that women cannot shoot as well as men.
“It’s not a man’s sport,” said Sgt. Emily Windmassinger, a Loves Park, Ill., native and member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “We’re all Marines and we should all be able to do this. If a female is willing to put in the work, it’s very possible to be as good or better than the males.”
Newsome insisted that more female service members should try competitive marksmanship.
“Take a chance,” said Newsome. “I think we’re built for this.”
For more information about joining a shooting team, contact your base or station firing range.
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This work, ‘Annie Oaklies’ take aim at competitive shooting, by Lisa Tourtelot, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.