DARIEN, Ill. – An Army Reserve Soldier was inducted in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) hall of fame Saturday for his distinction and accomplishments as a rifle competition shooter.
“It’s inexplicable what an honor it really is. There’s not really anything to compare it to,” said Master Sgt. Norman Anderson, who is now the head coach of the Army Reserve Service Rifle Team and an Army Reserve careers counselor living in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Anderson has 22 total years in service in the Army. He spent his first 15 years on active duty with the USAMU, a team that trains its Soldiers to win competitions and enhances combat readiness through train-the-trainer clinics, research and development. The USAMU was formed in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to raise the standards of marksmanship throughout the U.S. Army. Members who earn at least 50 points across their competitions become eligible for the unit’s Hall of Fame. The USAMU members have won hundreds of individual and team National Championship titles, more than 40 World Championships and 20 Olympic medals.
“Generally, the best memory (I have) is having fulfilled my desire to be a member of the most dominant service rifle team in the United States … To be around some of the greatest competitive marksmen and marksmanship instructors, to put that kind of dynasty together, for that duration of time, that’s truly what made it all worth doing,” said Anderson.
Anderson’s first major victory was in 1997 at the inter-service individual championship, when at the time he was the youngest Soldier to win the match at the age of 23, and the first one to win it using the M16 rifle. During the remaining time with the unit, he also won the National Trophy Individual match, shot at Camp Perry in 2004, and again in 2005. He also won the President’s Hundred Rifle Trophy twice, in 2005 and 2008. The first time he won the President’s trophy, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, who was the chief of staff of the Army at the time, hand-delivered a letter to Anders signed by President George W. Bush.
“To shake hands with the chief of staff of the Army … that was pretty cool. That certainly beats getting it in the mail,” said Anderson, who grew up in Kewanee, Illinois.
As a current coach and member of the Army Reserve Service Rifle Team, Anderson continues to shoot among the best marksmen in the Army Reserve. The team is one of three competition teams, plus another training team, comprising the Army Reserve Marksmanship Program (ARMP). The ARMP currently operates under the 416th Theater Engineer Command, but is made up of shooters and team members from across the Army Reserve.
Anderson said weapon marksmanship is essential to every Soldier, regardless of operational mission.
“The Army Reserve continues to fill the role of combat support, combat and services support, and even in these capacities Army Reservists are being called upon daily to support the combat arms units, and that support doesn’t just come from beans and bullets and delivery of goods. It comes from fire support, fire superiority, and that is attained through weapon marksmanship,” he said.
Anderson said shooting a rifle is as fundamental to the Army as reading, writing and arithmetic are vital to school student.
“There was a time in this country when if you couldn’t shoot, you didn’t eat. I’m glad we don’t live in those times anymore … (but) just because you can go to the grocery store and buy a steak, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how to shoot. There were people, generations before us, who made this country what it is with their skills at arms,” he said.
Unfortunately, Anderson often sees marksmanship as a skill that is undervalued and under-taught across the Army. Part of the reason is that ammunition is expensive, and organizing a range is logistically tedious. Units don’t always have rifle experts within their own units who can coach fellow Soldiers to the highest level. Too often Soldiers are rushed through the range instead of making it into an enjoyable experience that builds esprit de corps.
Anderson said he wishes the Army would put as much emphasis on marksmanship as it did on physical fitness.
“One more pushup might not save your life or the life of your buddy in a combat environment, but one well-aimed shot might just be the one that saves your whole entire unit,” he said.
That’s why earning recognition in this hall of fame category is so meaningful to him. He hopes that his efforts – along with those of other expert marksmen who have also been honored – have made a positive impact on the Army and its Soldiers.
“I’d like to think that (we) have left our mark and have actually done our very best to increase the proficiency of the Army with individual assigned weapons … We need to remember how important this skillset is for the effectiveness of the Army and Soldier. We owe it to the Soldiers to improve their marksmanship skills,” he said.