USAMU Holds Action-Packed Junior Shooter Camp
By Michael Molinaro
FORT BENNING, Ga. —-(AmmoLand.com)- Junior shooters from across the country descended on Fort Benning Nov. 6-8 as the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s Action Shooting team hosted a junior camp at Krilling Range.
With two national champions, a two-time international sniper champion and a previous attendee at the camp among the instructors, the opportunity to learn from the best was a chance 48 of the top up-and-comers in the growing sport of action shooting couldn’t pass up.
“I needed more training, and my Mom thought if I came here I would meet new friends and have a lot fun,” said nine-year-old Lee Wills, the camp’s youngest participant and a native of Gainesville, Va.. “She was really right.”
The kids were picked to attend the camp after a thorough selection process, said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Hampton, the camp director. Each junior had to meet certain criteria such as being a ranked U.S. Practical Shooting Association competitor or able to show that you have a good deal of shooting experience.
“This isn’t a beginner’s class,” Hampton said. “By no means is it geared to teach you the fundamentals. Our goal is to help grow the sport.”
Once the juniors met the criteria, they had to submit an essay on what they wanted to gain from coming to the camp and also what the second amendment means to them. Many submissions included a fondness for the Army and desires to one day join the ranks.
“I wanted it to be something that was personal and heartfelt but also something that they’d have to spend a little bit of time to research and understand,” Hampton said. “If you have nine-year olds who can write you a two-page essay on the second amendment, they probably want to show up. It was designed to be a litmus test on how dedicated they were.”
The attendees had the opportunity to learn from the best. Sgt. Daniel Horner, who recently won the Multi-Gun National championship in Boulder City, Nev., worked with the juniors on drawing and accuracy. Sgt. 1st Class Robby Johnson, a two-time International Sniper Competition champion, gave a block of instruction on the introduction to the rifle. The attendees also learned movement techniques, transitions, and reloads.
“I was here last year and had lots of fun,” said Mark Saffery, a 13-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla. “I’ve been competing for three years now. This camp is the best part of the year. We get to learn something from every AMU mentor. They are so awesome and really great guys.”
Instructing them on reloads was a familiar face. Pvt. Shane Coley, the newest member of the USAMU, attended the camp in its inaugural year last fall. Before attending the camp, he had no plans on joining the Army. That all changed rather quickly.
“It helped me so much when I came here,” Coley remarked, who arrived at the USAMU after completing basic and advanced individual training a mere three weeks ago. “I got to meet a bunch of new people in the sport, but I also had great mentors and great teachers in the Soldiers on the team.
“I really wanted to prove to them that I could be here. After the world championships last year Sgt. 1st Class Hampton came up to me and we talked. And now I’m here. It is a little weird because a lot of these guys are my friends, but I have to set boundaries. I want to teach them and instruct them. This is a great camp and these kids realize how valuable it is.”
This is a tricky time of year for the Action Shooting team to hold the camp. Soldiers compete in their national championships in late October, and the Fort Benning Three-Gun challenge, which they host, is held the first weekend of December. But it’s a no-brainier for Hampton and his Soldiers to continue bringing the kids back to Krilling Range and keep growing the sport that they all cherish.
“I believe in two things: one, if you’re going to do something you need to go ahead and do it and, two, if you got momentum keep it going because it’s hard to get it started again,” he concluded.
The USAMU’s mission is to raise the standard of marksmanship proficiency and combat readiness throughout the Army by sharing knowledge gained from competing and winning in national/ international competitions, research and development and advanced training programs while enhancing the Army’s recruiting effort through an active public information and public relations program. For more information on the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, contact the Public Affairs Office at (706) 545-5436, [email protected] or www.USAMU.com . The U.S. Practical Shooting Association is a nonprofit membership association affiliated with the International Practical Shooting Confederation, which is comprised of approximately 67 nations.