October 23rd, 2009

Junior Shooters Learn from the Best

The Fort Benning Junior Rifle Club, started in the 1970s, was formed to help junior shooters raise their level in competitive shooting and assist them in getting recognized by college coaches. It is organized and run by members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s International Rifle team, whose roster includes Olympians and national champions.

CLICK HERE for U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Website (Check out the video!)

“The kids are extremely motivated,” said Staff Sgt. Armando Ayala, the club’s head coach. “These shooters are exposed to the USAMU work ethic and our accomplishments, and it really motivates them.” Fourteen-year-old MacKenzy Crawford explains: “This is a ton of fun…. I started shooting when I was six and wanted to join the school’s rifle team, so I needed to get practice and coaching here.”

USAMU Junior Team

There are 52 kids in the Club this year, Ayala said, almost double the number of shooters from last year. There are two training sessions a week during the school year with a break during the winter holidays. Besides Ayala, who attends every training session, two of his teammates rotate from week-to-week, allowing the students a chance to work with the entire IR team. “We teach shooters from beginners all the way to advance levels,” he remarked. “We essentially take them from never shooting to the U.S. National junior team-level.”

Club members compete in a number of matches year-round. The biggest matches are sanctioned by USA Shooting, including the national championships and spring and fall selection matches for juniors. They also travel to Camp Perry, Ohio each summer to compete in the Smallbore National Championships and compete in regional postal and invitational matches.

USAMU Junior Team

Training Program Leads to Future Success
Many junior club members have achieved success at college and beyond. West Point has tapped into the program and recruited future officers through the academy’s shooting team, and many former and future members made the military their career choice after being tutored within the military environment. Coaches from Columbus State, University of Kentucky, Memphis University, Texas Christian University, Nebraska and others have scouted the club’s members and brought scholarship offers with them.

“To see our juniors develop into motivated young citizens and accomplish great things is very rewarding,” Ayala said. “I know what they learn here they carry into all aspects of their lives because the examples set for them affect their lives. What we do here really inspires and motivates young people.”

Report by By Michael Molinaro, USAMU PAO

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