Military News

Monday, December 01, 2014

414th FG maintainer stays on target on and off flightline

by Senior Airman Ashley J. Thum
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/1/2014 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C.  -- As a young boy on a north Georgia farm, Stuart Brown showed an interest in hunting birds that continued into his teenage years.

Brown later enlisted in the Air Force as an 18-year-old, newly graduated high school student, never dreaming his childhood interest would develop into a passion that would last more than two decades and take him across the country.

Now a master sergeant and 414th Fighter Group F-15E Strike Eagle tactical aircraft maintenance section flight chief, Brown's skill with a shotgun has garnered him countless awards on the fields of American skeet, to include a recent win, claiming the high all-around average at the 2014 World Skeet Championship in San Antonio, Texas. Brown took the top spot by destroying 548 out of 550 targets.

In American skeet, shooters must cycle through eight stations and hit clay targets launched from two fixed positions, a "high" house and a "low" house, using 25 shots. It may seem like plenty of ammunition, but the shooter must destroy double the amount of targets at stations one, two, six and seven, and use the 25th to either re-shoot their first miss or shoot an additional target launched from station eight's "low" house if they have hit all the previous targets.

"American is the oldest and most traditional form of skeet," Brown said. "It was developed by hunters to sharpen skills on a variety of moving targets. You have to strive for perfection. It requires a mastery of hand-eye coordination to strike targets flying at more than 50 miles per hour with a shotgun. Your chance is over in three or four tenths of a second."

For professionals like Brown, the prestige that is gained among peers for performing at a high level is significant, but for Brown, prestige comes second to other, less tangible benefits.

"I don't need awards or recognition," Brown said. "I don't need to be reminded. What takes place in those moments is enough for me."

Mutual respect among his fellow shooters and a fierce level of competition also help keep Brown's interest in the sport at its peak.

"There's so much integrity in the sport," Brown said. "You can't cheat when you, God, and John Wayne are all watching."

The skeet field isn't the only place Brown has had to exercise mental fortitude. He retired from active duty with more than 20 years of service, but wasn't quite ready to hang up his uniform just yet. Joining the Air Force Reserve after retirement is a complex and lengthy process, but Brown dug his heels in, put himself through the necessary paces, and has now been a full-time air reserve technician for more than two years.

"The same determination to stay in the Air Force is what carries me out on the field," Brown said. "You've got to have it in your heart and want it more than everybody else."

Whether it's the precise way he describes re-packing his own spent shell casings instead of buying new factory-made ammunition, the admiration in his voice when he shares lessons from his shooting mentors, or the look in his eye when he recounts especially memorable shots, it's not hard to see that Brown puts his heart into his sport.

Although there may be a few targets that have escaped his aim, Brown has learned to conquer whatever obstacles he encounters, and that's a score no referee can tally.

"When things go wrong, I look at it as a challenge and I look for the positive side," Brown said. "If you have a negative attitude during a shoot it reflects in your scores. It's the same as when I cross the flightline fence - I turn it off and leave it all behind me."

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