By Army Maj. Michelle Lunato, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit
FORT BENNING, Ga., Oct. 5, 2017 — The definition of success is the accomplishment of one's goals. For the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit based here, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Green was the embodiment of that definition over the summer.
In less than three months, the Service Rifle Team soldier claimed 14 individual championship titles and contributed to six team championship trophy wins. Out of those 20 top finishes, Green broke eight national records -- six individual and two team.
Though Army Marksmanship Unit soldiers are known for their success, Green's accomplishments exceed the "home of champions" moniker, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Shane Barnhart, a shooter/instructor on the Service Rifle Team and Ashley, Ohio, native.
"He shot amazing this summer -- probably the best anyone has ever performed in the history of the USAMU Service Rifle Team, … at least since I've have been here the last 18 years," Barnhart said.
Green, from Bogalusa, Louisiana, has been a winning member of the team since 2004. He has repeatedly won notable honors such as three Interservice Overall Champion titles, five Interservice Long-Range Champion titles and two National High-Power Champion titles. Even with all this success, Green's competitive nature forces him to consistently find ways to improve upon his skills. This year, he said, his adjustments paid big dividends.
Clear Plan of Action
"I changed my mental game up a little bit this year, kind of approaching each and every shot with a clear plan of action," he said. "And, it's really paid off."
This change involved taking notes on how he felt, what results he achieved and what techniques he used in various situations, Green explained. As he prepared for the summer series of competitions, he said, referred back to those notes and adjusted again, and then again. "When I got off track, I went back and read my notes and really got back into it. I focused on the shot and the rifle, not the outcome," he added. "I think that's what really helped me out this year."
Green said keeping a clear focus can be difficult, but it's critical for competitive shooters looking for an edge.
"Anytime you step onto a rifle range, you are going to focus on something," he said. "You are either going to worry about your gear, the weather, or this or that. I tried to take myself out of that completely. I didn't worry about anything. I simply focused on breaking the best shots I could -- each and every shot. That was my main focus."
Trust Breeds Success
Staying focused on one shot at a time allowed the Service Rifle Team soldier to trust his gear, trust his experience and trust his skill, and that trust freed him up for even more success.
"When you take away a lot of the worries that you have, it really opens your path up to do the right thing at the right time."
With advanced technology improving the gear and the rules changing to allow optics in some matches, finding that self-control has become the key to continued success in the high-power sport, Green said. "We have the best equipment, best rifles, best ammunition, and best glass (optics)," he added. "We have all the equipment. So the shooter is the weak link."
Coping with that reality and finding out what it takes to continuously improve is what the soldiers do at USAMU. It is also what serious high-power sportsmen need to do, Green said after competing in the 56th Annual Interservice Championships in Quantico, Virginia, where he claimed his fourth Interservice Overall Champion title. His winning score of 998-52X broke the 1994 record of 995-50X that was set by retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. Don Heuman, who later became a coach for the USAMU Service Rifle Team.
Staying in the Game
"The equipment is very, very good these days, so it's every man for himself up there," Green said. "You are shoulder to shoulder with the best there are in your particular discipline. So it's all about how you can drive the rifle and mentally stay in the game."
For those who debate the recent use of optics in some competitive matches, the 13-year-veteran of the Service Rifle Team agrees that it is "a different game now."
"It takes a lot more to break good shots with iron sights," Green said. "It just does. There is no question about it. But optics are the new norm. They are not going away."
The use of optics though, is not a bad thing to Green. He explained that iron sights lead to more eye fatigue, which caused a number of people to leave the sport. Allowing optics into some of the matches brings those people back, he said.
"It brought back people who just couldn't see the sights anymore," Green said. "It opened it back up for those guys."
Handling the Pressure
When everyone has the same gear, the bottom line still comes down to the shooter and the shooter's skills. And in the end, the best shooter is the one who hits the most targets, said Green, who just spent the summer competing in several matches against hundreds of civilians, veterans and other current service members across the Department of Defense.
Being a soldier definitely aided with the knowing-what-to-do and how-to-handle-pressure elements of competition, because through all the training, you learn things about yourself when you develop as a soldier, Green said. "It gives you a whole different perspective on the things you are doing," he added. "It really helps narrow your intent and helps you focus on what matters."
Discipline and Structure
The discipline and structure the Army provides makes the team stronger and communicate better, said Green, who occasionally shoots with various civilian teams for fun. "Just being in the Army in general has made me a much better shooter for sure, and I feel very fortunate," he said. "I would have never imagined that I could do something I love so much for a living, especially for the military."
USAMU soldiers train for hours and focus on little details. All that time together makes the team a family, and when it comes to family, team matches are even more important, Green said. "You don't want to let anybody down," he added. "You don't want to let your teammates down for sure."
But that doesn't mean the soldiers are not competitive with each other. They all want to win. That is what they train for, after all.
"All of us are competitive," Green said. "Everyone out here on this firing line today is a competitive person, whether or not they want to admit it."
That internal competition makes the USAMU soldiers better as they vie for top honors. Then after the season, they compile their notes as a team in efforts to improve marksmanship techniques across the Army. While an improved force is a long-term goal of the USAMU, the short-term goal is to win competitions. And with a team of competitive experts on the range, Green said his adjustments to improve can never stop.
"You can't let your guard down for a second," he said. "They will pass you up."