Ladies and gentlemen, Soldiers of the Army Marksmanship Unit, friends, distinguished guests…and Lieutenant Colonel Muggeo…Frank, thanks for that very gracious introduction—it’s the kind I so richly deserve, but so seldom receive!
What a great night! Ladies, you are a delight to the eyes – and gentlemen, well, I don’t know how you managed it, but you clean up pretty well yourselves!
I’m truly honored to be here. And even more honored to be asked to speak to you tonight. After every encounter with each of you, I always leave with my batteries fully recharged!
I went to the Interservice Rifle Championships in Quantico this past summer, and I heard about an experience, SFC Praeslick had on base….
SFC Praeslick was passing through Quantico just before the Interservice Rifle Championships. Everywhere he saw evidences of the most amazing shooting. At ALL of the ranges there were numerous bull's-eyes with the bullet hole in dead center. Even where the wind was howling.
SFC Praeslick asked one of the Marines if he could meet the person responsible for this wonderful marksmanship. The Marine turned out to be their commander.
"This is the best marksmanship I have ever seen," said SFC Praeslick, quite possibly the first time he’d ever been in a state of awe! "How in the world do you do it?"
"Nothing to it," said the Marine. "I shoot first and draw the circles afterward."
Not an approach I’d recommend.
I bring greetings from our commanding general, LTG Ben Freakley. He wanted to be here tonight, but just yesterday asked me to tell you that he is so very proud of you. A direct quote: You have covered yourselves in glory, but that’s to be expected from this unit. You have a history of extraordinary accomplishment, and this year in particular you have proven your talents and skills to the Army, to the Nation, and to the world. I doubt we could be any prouder of you. You truly demonstrate that you have a “strength like no other.”
Long before Army Strong was our advertising slogan, the AMU was comprised of the best of the best. When President Eisenhower formed this unit in 1956, he had in mind to bring together the best marksmen in the Army, so that they would hone their skills against each other and teach others how to be expert in all forms of shooting.
And from that beginning the AMU has gathered the best of each generation of Army shooters, men and women of extraordinary skill, Soldiers who have won military, national, and world championships, Olympic gold, silver and bronze. Truly a “Home of Champions.”
You are a band of brothers and sisters. I’ve seen first hand how you operate, how you work together. You laugh together, train together. Celebrate victories and endure the disappointments together. I’m a fan of Shakespeare. In 1599 he wrote his play Henry Vth, where he said,
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words.
In the world of shooting, you are the household names.
Xenophon, the Greek soldier and historian, wrote about 400 years before Christ. Fast is fine, he said, but accuracy is everything. There may have been something lost in the translation, but I’m thinking about making that the new AMU motto…maybe making Xenophon an honorary AMU member!
“The AMU: Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything!” Or “AMU: Fast, Fine and Accurate!” or how’s this for a banner? “AMU: We’re fast…we’re accurate…we’re fine!”
In the wake of your successes this past year, always remember that winning is part of your mission. It’s stated in your mission. And it will ALWAYS be your mission. ... It’s your currency. Make no mistake: Without it, we’re simply not relevant. That’s what we do. We win!
And won, you have. This has been the best year in the history of the AMU, hands down. Olympic Gold times two! Best Nation at the CISM in Sweden! International Sniper! New Olympic records set!
The Service Pistol Team secured 39 of 41 team competition wins, going undefeated in the overall team aggregates for every competition. In the process they set 11 National and 4 Inter-Service records, have 7 of the top 10 nationally ranked pistol shooters and won the overall national team championship "Coming Through the Rye" for the first time in 23 years!
The Service Rifle Team again dominated their sport this past year by winning 17 individual titles and 8 team titles setting 4 Inter-Service and 2 National records in the process including winning both the CMP and NRA National Championship Titles.
The Action Shooting Team continued their tradition of excellence with winning 3 National and 6 World level Individual Championships in all 3 of their disciplines while setting 4 new world records in the process and earning 2 Gold and 2 Silver Medals at the World Handgun Shoot in Bali, Indonesia and led the U.S. Team to 3 Gold Medals for the country.
The International Rifle Team again led the way for the Nation by earning 4 World Cup Medals, 3 PanAm medals (setting 2 new records), 2 Interservice Championships, 9 National Championships and had 7 CISM team members and 2 Olympic Team members.
The International Pistol Team proved their dominance by winning 1 World Cup medal, 4 National Championships setting 2 National records, earning 2 Olympic Quota slots and sending 1 member to the Olympic games. All members of the International Pistol Team made the U.S. National Team.
The Shotgun Team had their most dominating year in its history. On their way to earning 2 Olympic Gold medals they earned 7 World Cup Medals, set 3 Olympic records, 7 National Records had 3 team members on the Olympic team 4 members on the U.S. national team.
All these great achievements would not have been possible without the world class support from the Customs Firearms shop. As well as directly supporting the AMU champions, the Shop also conducted numerous missions in support of Army combat units, increasing weapons and ammo proficiency for our Soldiers on the Battlefield.
I don’t want to go on and on about your achievements this year…I know them, you know them – there have been many.
But I’ve learned over time that the most appreciated speeches are the brief ones.
You have also contributed to the Army's recruiting effort through an active public information and public relations program. Coincidentally, the AMU has derived some benefit from our recruiting efforts. I recently heard of an exchange between Glenn Eller and Bill Keever at the Atlanta Airport upon Glenn’s return from Beijing:
Eller to SSG Bill Keever: By the way, thanks, Sarge!
Keever: For what?
Eller: For talking me into joining the Army!
That’s a story in itself—and I think your dad had something say about it as well, right?
But our successes in this phenomenal year have come not just at the hands of our shooters. The Army Marksmanship Unit is truly a team of teams – with over 100 people in the AMU – shooters, gunsmiths, and support personnel – all of you, together, have been responsible since 1956 for winning hundreds of individual and team National Championship titles, more than 40 World Championships, and 25 Olympic medals…. so far….
We have so many champions here tonight, I can’t name them all in the time allotted to me. But let me single out one person who’s with us here tonight. A competitive rifle shooter, he was recruited into the AMU as a 22-year-old specialist. He deployed abroad and fought when he was called upon to do it. He turned down the chance to be a First Sergeant to stay in the AMU. And he retired here as a master sergeant in 1982. You know him. He’s been your Shop Officer for the Custom Firearms Shop. And there he’s been, behind us all, still serving as a civilian for past 27 years. That’s the kind of dedication the AMU inspires. Mr. W.O. Hardin, please stand to be recognized!
I would also like to recognize the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s unwavering support, be it to competitions or our attempt to produce the marksmanship DVDs. The Civilian Marksmanship Program are our best supporters in the shooting world. (APPLAUSE)
I don’t know if you realize what a tremendous impact you have, whether it’s training Soldiers who are about to deploy on the M-9 or enhancing recruiting efforts by fostering public confidence in Army marksmanship. Every day, your professionalism, your skills, what you do for the Army and our Nation inspires others: other Soldiers, other marksmen, other young people who want to be like you. I don’t know if you think about it as you go about your day-to-day duties, but you are doing important work. You share the values and have the traits needed to help build a great team. You share a culture of discipline, a personal commitment to being the best, and a desire to see your momentum build toward ever higher goals. That’s what day-to-day is at the Home of Champions.
I recently spoke to Sergeant Major Bill Blankenship, one of AMU’s original members. I believe he was AMU’s only Triple Distinguished for a long time before Barbara Howe and others followed? I asked him what his impressions were of AMU’s evolution, he said: "How things have changed! I used to come out to the range and my family would pull targets for me!"
He also asked me to tell you: "Congratulations on all of your wins. Never give up and keep in mind that it's never good enough. You can't stop training or stop trying!"
I want to finish out by quoting another illustrious member of the AMU, Lones Wigger. Of course, you know that Lones won gold and silver in the 1964 Olympics, then gold again in 1972. He said:
“The AMU is the greatest unit in the Army. I was honored to be there. You now have the greatest Soldiers we’ve ever had in the AMU.”
He continued, "You've got the greatest opportunity in the world. Take advantage of it. Work on it. It's unbelievable what can happen.” And then he paused and said: “Just don't blow it!"
Ladies and Gentlemen: I’ve spoken long enough. Let’s carry on with the rest of the evening’s festivities. Thank you for everything you do for this Nation and our Army.
And remember, to continue Henry V’s speech on St. Crispin’s Day:
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here.
You are a magnificent band of brothers and sisters. I am so proud of you. Proud of what you have achieved. Proud of what you represent. And proud to me in your formation.