Soldiers Preparing to Compete in 2004 Olympics
By Paula J. Randall Pagn
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT BENNING, Ga., Jul. 12, 2004 When the Olympic torch lights the flame at the 2004 Games in Athens, eight U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit soldiers and four other current and retired service members will be there to see it.
Seven shooters and a gunsmith from the Army Marksmanship Unit will march with the U.S. Olympic Team in the Opening Ceremony Aug. 13 at 2 p.m. Athens time.
USA Shooting conducted Olympic selection matches on Fort Benning's Hook Range, Phillips Range and at the Pool International Shooting Complex Sept. 21 to 29, March 17 to 27, and May 20 to June 3. Seven Fort Benning soldiers won 10 slots on the U.S. Olympic shooting team.
This will be Maj. Michael E. Anti's third Olympics. The 39-year-old will compete in the men's three-position free rifle and prone rifle competitions. He shot in the 1992 and 2000 Olympics, finishing in 9th place in 2000 in the three-position rifle competition and in 18th place in 1992 in the prone rifle event. He won a 2004 Olympic quota slot in three-position free rifle for the United States at the 2002 World Championships.
"I have been to the Olympics before, so I know what to expect," Anti said. "If I stay focused and shoot my match, I will be successful.
"You can never fully prepare yourself for your first Olympic experience," he added. "It is bigger than I could imagine; there is electricity in the air that I cannot explain."
Anti, an infantry officer from Winterville, N.C., is attached to the USAMU through the World Class Athlete Program. He and his wife, Anne, live at Fort Benning with their two sons, Matthew, 10, and William, 7.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason A. Parker, 30, will compete for the second time in the Olympics in men's air rifle. The infantryman from Omaha, Neb., finished fifth in the 2000 Olympics, barely missing a medal by seven-tenths of a point.
"The Olympic competition experience gave me the confidence to shoot good scores anywhere in the world," Parker said. "The highlight was making the Olympic finals. Unfortunately, I only placed fifth. I will train harder and smarter to be at my peak performance at the 2004 Olympics."
Parker went on to win the 2002 air rifle world championship -- a title he still holds -- and an Olympic quota slot, and he set a world record with his gold- medal win at the 2003 Munich World Cup. He and his wife, Andrea, live in Fortson, Ga., with their infant son, Thomas.
Spc. Hattie J. Johnson, 22, from Athol, Idaho, will compete in women's air rifle in Athens. She is a six-time Idaho and Washington state sport rifle and air rifle champion and the 2002 300-meter sport rifle three-position and prone interservice champion. Johnson joined the Army in 2000 right out of high school, and is a combat medic.
"Match jitters will definitely be the hardest part for me," she said. "I have only competed in a World Cup once, so this, by far, will be my biggest competition ever. To achieve my goal, I need to train hard, stay focused and have confidence."
A first-time Olympian, Johnson is the only female active duty Army shooter on the Olympic team. She is married to former USAMU service rifle shooter Staff Sgt. Robby Johnson, of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Benning. They live in Columbus, Ga.
This will be the second Olympics for Sgt. 1st Class Daryl L. Szarenski, 36, of Seale, Ala. He will compete in both men's air pistol and free pistol.
The infantryman finished 25th in free pistol in the 2000 Olympics and won an Olympic quota slot in air pistol at the 2002 World Championships.
"The hardest part of the Olympic competition was shooting against the greatest shooters in the world and trying to have an excellent performance," Szarenski said. "I did not know what to expect. My whole Olympic experience was like no other match that I had ever shot; everything was new."
Szarenski and his wife Amy, a former USAMU international pistol shooter, live in Seale, Ala., with their two children, Hannah, 7, and Luke, 5.
Sgt. 1st Class Bret E. Erickson, 43, who lives in Buena Vista, Ga., made both the men's trap and men's double trap teams. He was a 1992 and 1996 Olympian in trap. The mortarman from Bennington, Neb., came in 20th in 1996 and 16th in 1992 in the trap competitions.
"Without the Army and the Army Marksmanship Unit, I would not be an Olympian," Erickson said. "The Army has given me the opportunity to train while supporting my family."
He and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Mara, 13, and Cole, 10. Erickson joined the Army in 1983 and plans to retire after this Olympics.
The third time shooting skeet in the Olympics resulted in a Bronze Medal in 2000 for Sgt. 1st Class James "Todd" Graves, 41, of Cusseta, Ga. He finished 15th in skeet in the 1996 Olympics. In the 1992 Olympics, he took 11th place in skeet and 29th place in trap. He was the first shooter to earn Olympic slots on both the skeet and trap teams.
"I owe everything to the Army and the unit," Graves said. "I could not have done it without them - and my wife for making me work hard."
The infantryman from Laurel, Miss., will compete in Skeet again in Athens. He and his wife Tracy, live in Cusseta, Ga., with sons James, 14, and Cody, 13.
Sgt. 1st Class Shawn C. Dulohery, 39, of Lee's Summit, Mo., will compete in skeet in the 2004 Games. This will be the first Olympics for the infantry soldier, who won the skeet world championship and an Olympic quota slot in Cairo, Egypt, in 2001.
"The highest level that an athlete can achieve is the Olympics," Dulohery said. "Being an Olympian is an honor, knowing that I will represent not only myself, but the country and the flag as well." Dulohery lives in Midland, Ga., and has a daughter, Haley, who turns 11 today.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles P. Gartland, 39, a USAMU gunsmith, was chosen by USA Shooting to be the official gunsmith for the 2004 Olympic Games. Originally from Bardstown, Ky., Gartland and his wife, Gennie, live in Buena Vista, Ga.
Also, Staff Sgt. Elizabeth "Libby" Callahan, 52, of the U.S. Army Reserve made the Olympic team in sport pistol and women's air pistol. The retired Washington, D.C., police officer lives in Marlboro, Md., and is part of the Army World Class Athlete Program.
Army Reserve Maj. David Johnson is the U.S. Olympic rifle team coach, and retired Master Sgt. Erich Buljung is the U.S. Olympic pistol team coach. Both are former U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit members. Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lloyd Woodhouse is the U.S. Olympic shotgun team coach. Thirteen civilians also made the U.S. Olympic shooting team.
Formed in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to raise the standards of marksmanship throughout the U.S. Army, the Army Marksmanship Unit is assigned to the Accessions Support Brigade of Fort Knox, Ky., which is under U.S. Army Accessions Command, of Fort Monroe, Va. Accessions Command is charged with overseeing recruiting and training of the Armyss enlisted soldiers and officers.
The Marksmanship Unit trains its soldiers to win competitions and enhances combat readiness through train-the-trainer clinics, research and development. The world-class soldier-athletes of the USAMU also promote the Army and assist recruiters in attracting young Americans to enlist in the Army.
(Paula J. Randall Pagn is assigned to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Accessions Support Brigade.)