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NEWS | April 11, 2012

Continuation of service

By Sgt. 1st Class John Buol Army Reserve Marksmanship Unit

Events that keep soldiers so motivated that they'll travel to foreign countries to pursue activities useful to the force, it makes sense to continue with the programs that encourage them to stay.

Why do people join the Army Reserve and what makes them want to stay? The answers are unique to every serving U.S. Army Reserve Soldier. Career Counselors are tasked with retaining personnel and can offer powerful incentives to stay, but soldiers don't typically leave because the benefits aren't good enough (they are!) soldiers often stay because of the Army-sponsored programs they participate in and the camaraderie built. The Army Reserve Shooting Team is a prime example.

This past year, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier were asked to attend invitation-only shooting events in foreign countries. Merely being invited to International-level competition is prestigious and a positive mark for all U.S. Army Reserve Soldier.

The World Long Range Championships are held every four years and the United States has been represented strongly. International Long Range shooting has a long history and the World Long Range Championships are an outgrowth of the United States Palma Matches originally fired at the Creedmoor New York Range in 1876. The Palma Team Match is still the center piece for the World Long Range Rifle Championships. Palma competition dates from 1876 between US and Irish teams. The events feature long-range rifle shooting out to 1000 yards and is recognized in various nations today.

The last International Long-range Target Rifle Match for the PALMA trophy as held at the Belmont Shooting Complex, Queensland, near Brisbane, Australia. Bringing out the best of the world's long range riflemen and women, the bragging rights are huge. Team USA put together a talented Long Range Rifle Team to send to to compete with other countries for World Championship honors, which included four Army Reservists.

The road to the Palma for these Reservists started at Camp Perry. All four Palma shooters from USAR Team that were selected for Team USA (Maj. David Cloft, Master Sgt. Norman Anderson, Sgt. 1st Class Russ Theurer , Sgt. Eric Smith) finished in the top 10 of competitors in the Palma class at Camp Perry. Anderson also coached the National Championship Team (USA Palma) on which Theurer was a firing member.

Both Theurer and Cloft won their relays and made the shoot off for the Andrus and Aiken National Trophies. Anderson was the coach and Theurer was a firing member of the U.S. National Team. Along with an active component Army Marksmanship Unit shooter, a Marine Reserve shooter and a civilian, this team won the Herrick National Trophy. This had great training value before going to the World Championships. In addition, all four USAR Palma shooters finished in the top 10 of competitors in the Palma aggregate over the four days of individual competition.

Firing at the World Long Range Championships took take place over 15 days starting off with National Rifle Association of Australia's President's Match fired from 300, 500, 600, 900 and 1,000 yards over two days. Competitions continued over the long range course culminating with two days of firing of the Palma Match shot at distances of 800, 900, and 1,000 yards.

Sgt. 1st Class Chris Gervasio has been using this long range experience to good effect. Assisting TACOM with the M14-based Enhanced Battle Rifle, he has been improving this weapons platform that is currently in service in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as teaching classes and developing an AAR recommendations on improving the weapons system for increased lethality to the warfighter. “We have guys showing up with rifle in the box from the factory having never seen one before. Getting them up and running out to 800 meters is a motivator for me to keep serving.”

“I can thank my mother and father for the chance to do this, for without my father shooting indoor .22 gallery in the little town of Flasher, N.D., in the middle of winter I may have never even thought about shooting,” says Theurer. “It's great to realized how far back this International Competition goes, starting around 1874 as a means to teach rifleman how to shoot. Being able to take that and pass it on to other Soldiers is a major reason why I'm doing this.”

Looking at a newer discipline, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers have been active in practical shooting as well. The United States Practical Shooting Association, or USPSA, is a non-profit membership organization that serves as the U.S. Region of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). With 350 affiliated clubs, USPSA is the dominant competitive pistol shooting organization in the United States and the largest Region within IPSC.

IPSC was formed in 1976 at a meeting in Columbia, Mo. Lead by the late Jeff Cooper, the sport of Practical Shooting was formally established after years of independent efforts around the country to build upon the handgun skills and training for self defense. The early days of the sport can be traced back to the 1950’s and the quick draw “leather slap” competitions that grew out of America's love affair with the TV westerns of that era.

U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Mark Quinn was part of the official USPSA roster of shooters that represented the United States as Team USA at IPSC World Shoot XVI held in Rhodes, Greece. “This is without a doubt one of our strongest national teams we’ve ever fielded to compete in the World Shoot” said USPSA President, Michael Voigt. 

Quinn competed in the IPSC Standard Division, which is very similar to USPSA Limited Division, and uses a tuned 1911-style high-capacity handgun with iron sights and no compensator that must fit inside an approved box. He is the first Army Reserve shooter to be selected for a USPSA US National Team. When asked about his reasons for competing and how it helps the Army Reserve, MSG Quinn said, “Action Shooting is in same category as Biathlon competitors when it comes to fitness level. This has real value for soldiers and it's why I keep doing it.”

All four of the Service Rifle shooters competing in Australia were funded by USARC and Quinn's attendance was funded by HRC as he is in the IRR. When soldiers are so motivated that they'll travel to foreign countries to pursue activities useful to the force it makes sense to continue with the programs that encourage them to stay.