by Joseph Sheeley
This continues the story on my experience in JROTC. The first article is here. Today I’ll tell about the Rifle Team.
The first team I joined in JROTC was Rifle Team. Before joining I had never handled or shot a rifle before, so this was an all new experience. We used .22 rim fired target rifles and shot at targets that contained 12 targets on a 11 x 8.5 inch sheet of paper. The two targets in the center were for siting in the rifle, then you’d shoot one shot each at the ten targets around the edge. The targets were up to 10 points each, so your total score for each position was 100 points. We would shoot prone, kneeling, and standing each time, so your score was out of 300 possible points.
When I joined there were about ten cadets on the team. The captain was a junior, and there were a couple of other juniors on the team, including a female friend of my sister who was one of the best shots at the team. (During the time I was there I found that the best shots were normally girls.)
We would practice once per week. We would load up the rifles after school into a white Chevy Bronco and drive to a school on the south side of town where they had a ten lane indoor range. Note that when loading we were carrying rifles across campus with boxes of ammunition, which seems bizarre given today’s standards where even a tiny pocket knife could get you suspended. We never had any issue, however. No one would even think about loading a rifle until at the range and just about to fire.
On the way to practice we would stop at McDonald’s. We always got food to go and you’d need to get it fast or the instructor, First Sergeant, would pretend he was going to drive off and slowly pull away while you chased with your bags. Another memory is that the team captain would get four waters, which they’d send in a cup holder, then spend the rest of the drive flicking water at those in the back seat until First Sergeant told him to knock it off. We’d eat on the way to the range, which was probably 30 minutes away from our school.
During practice would normally go through a full competition, which was siting in in prone, then ten targets in prone, ten in kneeling, and ten standing, or “off-hand.” I’d normally go in order, but one could go in any order one chose. One had an hour to shoot all 30 targets plus site the rifle. You would use a telescope or binoculars to see where you were hitting when siting in and sometimes while you shot. First Sergeant would normally sit in an area behind us separated by glass and either watch with a telescope or do other things while he waited for us to finish.
We would score our targets right afterwards while cleaning up or on the way back. The 8 point ring was a little smaller than a dime and we shot from 50 feet. The ten was a dot smaller than a period. The round would just fit within the eight ring and if it were fully inside it was a “10x” that could be used to break ties.
Prone was easiest since you had most of your body supported to keep you steady, then kneeling, then standing. In prone if you were good you never scored a seven or lower and had few eights. I became very good at kneeling and would score 80 to 85 regularly. In standing, because you’d sway, seventy plus was good. Once in a while it all locked in and I’d hit a ten standing, but it was rare. I knew when I fired that I did. Scoring over 200 such as a 90 in prone, 70 in kneeling, and 70 in standing would put you near the top for the team and the district. A 250 might win for top overall score. There were also trophies for highest on each position, so if you were a great prone shooter or decent in kneeling or standing you could clean up.
We would have competitions among the district, covering the greater Phoenix area, and also a state competition. All were held at the range at which we would practice. These would have trophies for each position and then overall individual trophies and team trophies. We would usually do very well in the district and win a couple trophies in the state.
We also did two out-of-state competitions while I was there. The first was a trip to San Diego. We drove (it was about an 8-hour drive.) One of the boys had a Beastie Boys “Licensed to Ill” cassette tape that we wore out during the trip. I also had a Back to the Future soundtrack cassette plus some mix tapes that I played on my Walkman during the trip. A couple of times I got to play Sammy Hagar on the car cassette player.
We participated in a national competition at one of the Navy bases in San Diego. At that meet there were two girls who scored in the 290s. We didn’t stay for the awards ceremony. On the way back we went to Sea World and Disneyland. The other trip was to the New Mexico Military Academy. We similarly didn’t place but had fun on the road trip to the competition.
By my Junior year I had become Captain of the team, a role in which I stayed through my senior year. I eventually was shooting in the low 90s for prone and mid 80s for kneeling. Standing was between the 50s and the 70s.
In the next article I’ll tell about our Instructors.
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