Making the Team

by SFC John Hawes

One of the most common questions I get as a member of the US Army Reserve Shooting Team, is how they, or others they know, can become a member of the team? The USAR Shooting Team is under the umbrella of the USAR Competitive Marksmanship Program, and is actually comprised of several different teams that compete or instruct in many shooting disciplines. The primary teams are the Service Rifle Team, Service Pistol Team, Service Conditions (Combat) Team, and the Mobile Training Team, but it’s all commonly known as the Reserve Shooting Team to many people. In my role as a Career Counselor for USAR Soldiers, I brief Soldiers on the many opportunities they have available to them, to include the Reserve Competitive Marksmanship Program. Other Career Counselors or interested Soldiers ask me frequently how they can get on the team. Being a member of the shooting team sounds great (and is!), especially for any Soldier who enjoys shooting firearms, the chance to get paid and be issued equipment to shoot competitions is very appealing. There are two routes one can take to earning a spot on the team. You can apply directly to be a member of the team if you are already an accomplished competitive shooter. Or you can impress the team with your shooting ability at a match and catch their eye and interest and be invited to the team. Either route requires you to be a good shot.

How good of a shot do you need to be? Preferably you need to hold at least an Expert or Master rating in one of the shooting disciplines, most commonly Service Rifle (NRA/CMP High Power) or Service Pistol Bullseye Pistol, or have already earned EIC points or a Distinguished Rifle or Pistol Badge or have been President’s 100.*** Simply having shot Expert on a US Army qualification course and enjoying shooting as a casual hobby won’t make the cut. If you don’t know what EIC points, Distinguished badges, or the President’s Hundred is, I would recommend you doing some homework and researching them and the disciplines they involve before contacting the team as well. The team also supports shooters in many other disciplines to include 3-Gun, PRS, action/practical shooting, and shotgun shooting events.

The majority (but not all) of team members were accomplished shooters prior to joining the team. Whether as members of other active-duty teams (we have several former Army Marksmanship Unit or Marine Corps Shooting Team members in our ranks), our roster also includes Olympians, we have junior shooters who excelled in competitive shooting that joined the USAR, and finally we have passionate shooters who have invested their own time and money into the shooting sports and developed a high level of skill in doing so. Not every shooter on the team is an accomplished high level shooter. The team has some limited slots for developmental shooters; shooters who have the passion and discipline to shoot competitively and possess the potential to improve and become a high level shooter.

As a member of the team, you may get issued some limited equipment, ammo, and have your travel and registration fees covered, and be paid to shoot and represent the USAR in competitive shooting events from the local, to national, and even international levels. But you certainly won’t get issued everything you need to compete, nor have all of your shooting funded. You must invest time and money in the sport and equipment yourself. Many team shooters start out using personal equipment and must wait to be issued anything. The team’s limited budget will generally only fund you to attend a few large competitions a year, the National Championships and Interservice matches, being the most common. But the skill needed to earn and keep a spot on the team and be competitive at the large matches will require you to be practicing and competing on your own on a regular basis. Many interested Soldiers don’t understand this or want to make that personal investment.

The requirements to make the team are generally high because, and this is another thing many interested Soldiers not affiliated with the competitive shooting sports understand is, the team is a professional team and recognized worldwide as such. Among the primary disciplines such as Service Rifle, Bullseye Pistol, and Combat Match shooting, the team has set individual and team records at the highest levels of the sport and is considered to be one of the few teams at the pinnacle of their disciplines. Among the shooting sports, being a member of the USAR Shooting Team is the equivalent to playing on any professional sports team in its respective major league.

Another way you can end up as a member of the team is to shoot well at US Army run and sanctioned shooting matches, from local unit level matches to Army wide events such as the US Army Small Arms Championship held once a year at Fort Benning, GA. A few members of the Reserve Shooting Team are usually in attendance at the various Army run shooting matches, and if you attend one and shoot well, you may very well catch their eye and be invited to the team. You will certainly find Reserve Team members at various civilian competitions as well and a consistent high level of performance in them will catch the eye of the team as well. If you see a member of the team at a match, usually identified by a tan or OCP baseball cap with USAR on the front, make sure to introduce yourself.

A unique thing about the USAR Shooting Team, is that it is not its own unit or MOS. All of the members of the team belong to a regular Reserve unit and hold a MOS that they are expected to perform. The members of the team can be found throughout the entire country, working as Civil Affairs, PSYOPS, cooks, mechanics, and Career Counselors to name just a few; and hold ranks from Private to Sergeant Major and even a few Officers. The shooting team can be considered an additional duty, and you are expected to put your assigned unit and primary MOS’s needs first. This has the benefit of providing true Subject Matter Experts on marksmanship to the units at the ground level, where we can best share our knowledge with our fellow Soldiers and improve the force as a whole.

It would be encouraged for an aspiring member of the shooting team to seek out one of the current team members as a mentor and learn from them and accompany them to matches. I did this myself for a Soldier and allowed him to travel with me to matches, stay with me, and shared gear and ammo with him. Over the years he improved greatly and earned a spot on the team himself. The team is full of passionate shooters who want to see others improve and represent the USAR proudly in the shooting sports.

In order to learn more or apply to the team, you can contact us through the team’s official website at https://www.usar.army.mil/Commands/Functional/ARMU/Resources/AboutJoin/ or Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USARCMP Provide a short bio of yourself that includes current shooting Classifications and achievements. The team’s primary focus is on training and improving marksmanship throughout the USAR and if you are a current serving Soldier you will be expected to try and host postal competitions at your units and actively try to improve your unit’s marksmanship and encourage competition.

***Editor’s Note: A specific shooting skill Classification level is not necessarily required for consideration to join the Team, however, Level 3 or higher from a relevant national shooting organization is a good base. Demonstration of promoting shooting to other Soldiers, such as by hosting a Postal Match or EIC, is also important. The critical thing is proven action and ready access to local marksmanship facilities to continue developing skills.

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