"When a man does his best, what else is there?” – Gen. Patton
Well, when his best is an Olympic Gold medal, there’s the triumphant journey home.
(Fort Benning, GA) – When most Olympic champions ascend the podium, they have a small contingent of family and supporters to thank for helping them achieve their dreams. But when Specialist Glenn Eller and Private First Class Vincent Hancock received their gold medals in Beijing, they did so knowing that their family is a little bigger. Over a million of their uniformed brothers and sisters will share in their triumph – especially those who trained beside them at the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) based in Fort Benning, Georgia.
“I’m extremely proud to be able to represent the Army and my country,” said Hancock. “I’m dedicating my gold medal to my fellow Soldiers.”
Though considered USA’s Shooter of the Year 2006 in his discipline of Skeet, Hancock was not considered a major medal contender, being only 19 years old and having only three years of international competition under his belt. But analysts didn’t count on his determination to prove himself Army strong, or his resolve to make America proud.
After a stunning qualifying round in which he set an Olympic record, Hancock was ahead by one shot going into the final. A heartbreaking miss of a single target, and the door was open for Norway to steal the gold. Most expected him to buckle under the enormous pressure. “It just made me more determined,” said Hancock, “I knew I wouldn’t miss again.” With signature strength and composure, he rallied back to squeeze out the gold in a final shoot-out, winning by single perfect point. His final score? 145, another Olympic record.
Hancock wasn’t the only one shattering Olympic records on the range. The third time proved to be the charm for Eller, who previously failed to medal at the games in both Sydney and Athens. However, in Beijing, Eller’s outstanding qualifying round gave him both an Olympic record and a four point lead going into the finals in the men’s double trap.
The field’s youngest competitor at 26 years old, Eller looked shaken when he missed his first two targets of the final round. “It was a little dicey there for a second,” he admitted. Again, composure and training helped get the shooter back on track. “I just calmed myself down and made sure I went back through my routine—what got me into the final.”
Eller made his way into Olympic record books a second time with an impressive final score of 190. He gives credit, selflessly, to his teammates and training at the AMU. “Since I joined the Army in 2006, I've had nothing but the best training facilities and the absolute best teammates to push and support me," Eller said. "It makes such a huge difference, and I truly believe they've helped me fulfill a dream. I don't think this would've ever happened without them."
Both men have trips planned to their hometowns to share their gold medal victory with loved ones. Houston, Texas is throwing a barbecue for SPC Eller, and Eatonton, Georgia is planning on giving PFC Hancock the key to the city. Parties, parades and enthusiastic congratulations assuredly await them, but both Soldiers are undoubtedly excited to return to the AMU and the 32 eagle-eyed hot shots they’ve lived and trained with. They’ll find no shortage of praise from that camp either.
“The Army asked these young men to go and represent their military and the United States, and they certainly made us proud," said AMU commander Lieutenant Colonel Frank Muggeo.
LTC Muggeo is not just pleased with their performance, but with their composure afterwards. "They were professional,” he said. “Although when we spoke seven hours later, each of them still had the same grins on their faces that they had at the medal ceremony."
Upon their return to Fort Benning, Eller and Hancock are both slated to be inducted into the AMU Hall of Fame. They will be honored alongside the 22 other Soldiers who have medaled in shooting events since the unit was formed in 1956.
Looking forward, both marksmen are focused on the future, including training, world competitions and the London Olympics four years from now. With their gold medals in tow, one thing is for certain. Win or lose, these two lucky men have an extremely large and entirely devoted family to back them, as Americans and Olympians, but most of all, as Soldiers.
Gold Standard: Army Soldiers Achieve Mission of Earning Olympic Gold Medals in Beijing
Elite Army Marksmen Return to Hometowns with Olympic Gold
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Army Strong Soldiers, Private First Class Vincent Hancock and Specialist Glenn Eller, are proudly returning to their hometowns to announce the successful accomplishment of their mission that has been years in the making. Their assignment: bring home a gold medal from the Beijing Olympics. Both Soldiers are members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) based out of Fort Benning, Ga.
"Representing the United States is the ultimate honor. And to represent it in the Olympic games and to win a gold medal and to raise the flag for your country and then as well do it for the Army - there is no greater honor," Eller said.
Spc. Eller will show off his gold medal at celebrations in his home state of Texas over the Labor Day weekend, including a barbecue bash in Houston on Sunday, Aug. 31.
Eatonton, Ga. will declare Friday, Aug. 29 Vincent Hancock Day and honor his achievement with a parade through his hometown. Pfc. Hancock will also be presented with a coveted key to the city on Saturday, Aug. 30.
"I’m very proud to be able to represent the Army and my country which is why I’m dedicating my gold medal to my fellow Soldiers. This is my mission and I’ve succeeded," said Hancock.
Hancock says winning the gold medal in a sudden death shoot off was like a dream come true and everything he imagined it would be. He is the youngest of his AMU teammates at 19.
"I've dreamt of going to the Olympics ever since I was 12, but I never really thought I would do it. The Army has given me the confidence I needed to make it go from a dream to reality," Hancock said.
Hancock has distinguished himself in skeet shooting since he started competing at age 11. By 16, the Eatonton, Ga., native was competing internationally. He earned accolades including USA Shooting's "Shooter of the Year" in 2006. After graduating from Gatewood High School in Georgia, Hancock enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the AMU in 2007.
Eller set an Olympic record en route to winning his first Olympic gold medal in double trap, earning a score of 190 in the finals to top the previous record of 189. In the event, competitors fire their 12-guage shotguns at five different stations, where two targets are thrown simultaneously from an underground bunker at speeds upwards of 50 mph at set angles and heights.
The 26-year-old from Katy, Texas credits the Army with giving him the edge he needed during his third Olympic appearance.
"I started shooting when I was eight, and I've had a lot of success over the years, but I came in 12th in Sydney and 17th in Athens. Since I joined [the Army] in 2006, I've had nothing but the best training facilities and the absolute best teammates to push and support me," Eller said. "It makes such a huge difference, and I truly believe they've helped me fulfill a dream. I don't think this would've ever happened without them."
The athletes’ were welcomed back home to Fort Benning, GA by their large, proud Army family.
"The Army asked these young men to go and represent their military and the United States, and they certainly made us proud," said AMU commander Lieutenant Colonel Frank Muggeo.
Lt. Col. Muggeo is not just proud of their performance, but of their composure afterwards.
"They didn’t act like they've never won before, or they never expect to be there again - they were professional," he said. "Although when we spoke seven hours later, each still had the grin on their face that was present at the medal ceremony."
The future road for these Army Soldiers could be lined with more gold according to three-time Olympic Army marksman Lones Wigger Jr. The 70-year-old retired Army Lt. Col. won two Olympic gold medals and one silver medal during his shooting career. He was also inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame this year.
"It was a tremendous honor to be the first shooter entering the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame," Wigger said. "I know that Spc. Eller and Pfc. Hancock have the same Army training and discipline to help them fulfill their wildest dreams too."
Wigger says another honor awaits Eller and Hancock when they are eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame at the AMU. They will join 22 other Soldiers who medaled in shooting events at the Olympics since the unit was established in 1956.
To learn more about the U.S. Army athletes and training, visit
The Golden Knights have won their first Gold medal in Canopy Piloting. Events were speed, distance and area accuracy with the micro canopies. The men swept the competion with SFC Greg Windmiller winning the Gold, SFC Chris Moore silver and SGM Michael "Ike" Eitniear winning Bronze. The competition was a Regional swoop competiton in Colorado that was watched by the Secret Service to ensure no one diverted into the Denver DNC convention. This is a remarkable achievement--by any standard-- and a true testament to the hard work of these three senior Non-Commissioned Officers. As Ike told me, "[we are now the] top 3 amateurs as we just got pro rated last night! We compete against the pros today at the US nationals."
This from the Competition blog: "The team came out of no where with solid and consistent runs during the competition. They told us they came to get their PST pro cards and it was one of their main goals for the Swoop Week. Not only did they win first, second and third place receiving their pro cards they also donated their $5,000 cash winnings! 50% went to the Wounded Warrior Foundation and they gave the remaining money to 4th, 5th and 6th place. Competitors were surprised to receive the cash and it was a first in canopy piloting. The Golden Knights performance at this year's championships is great for the Army but even bigger for the canopy piloting community. Little by little the Army Golden Knights have been making their way onto the scene...." Congratulations and Good Luck at Nationals!
This past weekend, I travelled to Atlanta to welcome Army Marksmanship Unit Soldier-Olympian, Specialist Glenn Eller, home from Beijing in the wake of his Gold Medal victory in Double Trap. We could not be more proud of all of our AMU Olympians. SPC Eller and PFC Vincent Hancock, who also won a Gold medal in Skeet, now transition into an ambassadorial role not only for the Army, but for their respective sports. Here are some photos of SPC Eller's homecoming....
To provide some context to AMU's total performance in Beijing, here is a final summary of our Army Marksmanship Unit Olympians' competitions from AMU Commander, Frank Muggeo....
While two of our Soldiers came back with Gold medals, it was--by any measure--a team effort. All of the soldiers have been competing together for a very long time so they know each other well. Specialists Eller and Holguin, for example, are tied at the hip in all they do and while Eller won the medal, Holguin was the happiest for him. MAJ Anti and SFC Parker have been team members for the past 8 years. In the Olympic Village, they were roommates-- so they were able to keep each other focused on the mission before their events. All of the soldiers worked together to minimimize distractions for each other inside the Olympic Village. Prior to the Olympic team traveling to Beijing, all of our Soldier-Olympians participated in a Pre-Olympic training camp in Changwon, Korea. Mr. Glen Sulser from the AMU Custom Firearms shop was selected to be the Olympic Team Gunsmith for this camp. The camp in Korea afforded the Shooters to receive focused training and have the opportunity for team building with other civilian shooters in all of the shooting disciplines.
MAJ Mike Anti
Prone- 60 shots in the prone position with a .22 caliber rifle at a distance of 50 meters, after the qualification round the top eight shooters advance to the final to decide the medals. Normally, it takes around a 596 to a 597 to qualify for the finals. On this day, due to the conditions which were fairly windy, the cut off for the final was a 594. MAJ Anti fired a 594 in the qualification round and was tied for a slot with a French shooter for the eighth slot. The rules for breaking ties resulted in the French competitor clinching the eighth slot for the final. International Rifle and Pistol are huge sports in Europe and Asia and they have extensive training programs (unlike the U.S.).
SFC Jason Parker
Air- Conducted from a standing position at 10 meters using a .177 caliber pellet shooting 60 shots-- with each shot worth 10 points. All competitors shoot the qualification round (60 shots) with the top eight shooters advancing to the finals. The finals consist of ten shots fired from the standing position, the score from the additional ten shots is added to the competitors qualification score. The top three scores after the final determine the medals. The cut score to advance to the finals was 595, SFC Parker's score of 591 finished in 23rd place. SFC Parker started off slowly, dropping 4 points in the first 20 shots. While he rallied for the last 40 shots, it was not enough to advance to the finals.
3 position- Standing, kneeling and prone shooting 40 rounds in each position using a 22 caliber rifle. Again the top 8 shooters qualified for the finals. The cut score to qualify for the final was a 1170. SFC Parker had a 1164 and finished out of the top eight. He gave up too many points in the prone and couldn't make it back up in kneeling or standing and did not make the finals.
SFC Daryl Szarenski
There are 3 International Pistol events, SFC Szarenski shoots Free Pistol. He fires a 22 caliber pistol 50 meters away at a target which has a bulls-eye of under 2 inches round. He fires 6 10-round strings with each round valued at 100 points and in this event needed to average in the mid 90's for each string. 5 of his 6 strings were good enough or above average, but on his second string he shot an 88. Although he fired a 97 on his last string, he did not make the finals.
SPC Glenn Eller and SPC Holguin
Double Trap- standing behind the target the competitor starts with the stock of the weapon in his shoulder. Once the target is called for, there is an immediate to 3-second wait for two targets to be "thrown". The targets travel in the same directions at speeds that have to carry the target out to 80 meters. 50 shots equals 1 round, competitors shoot 3 rounds for a total of 150 targets. If there is a tie and they go to a "sudden death" tie breaker to determine the top 6 shooters that will compete in the final.
SPC Holguin was in third going into the finals with a two shot lead. He missed 4 of his final 50 targets and finished in fourth, two shots out of third. This is his first Olympics but he has a very calm, even demeanor so it is not believed that it was nerves that caused him to miss (but it probably played some part). He is scheduled for eye surgery within the next few months so issues with his eyes drying out during a match will be removed and we believe he will be very difficult to beat over the next four years.
SPC Eller started out with a lead that no one thought he would give up and he didn't. He did miss his first two shots which are from a "relatively easy" position. He shot a 47 out of 50 in the finals. During SPC Eller's performance he set 2 new Olympic Records
Skeet- PFC Hancock has to move between 8 different stations and shoot either one or two targets simultaneously. A competitor will shoot 125 targets over two days in the preliminaries and an additional 25 in the finals, if he qualifies. During the final Hancock uncharacteristically missed on station 6 which resulted in a tie at the end of the finals round. In the tie breaker the Norwegian shot first followed by Hancock. They shot at two targets that were released at the same time. The Norwegian missed one target on his second pair but Hancock got both of his. SPC Hancock also set two new Olympic Records.
The 2008 Olympics are over for the Soldiers of the United States Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). Six Soldiers ranging in rank from PFC to MAJ competed in Beijing and ended up winning 2 Gold medals.These Soldiers will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the USAMU and join 21 other Soldiers that have represented their Nation in shooting events at the Olympics and won medals. Once they return they start right back up again, everything from Mobile Training Teams, the Basic Non-Commissioned Officers Course (BNCOC), to training for the next shooting event.PFC Hancock and SPC Eller told there families goodbye for awhile because on top of the things listed above they will be traveling around the country thanking Americans for supporting them and the other Soldiers. SPC Eller says it best, “I never would have made it here without the Army”.Eller leaves for BNCOC soon and I am sure he will excel there as well.Keep up with these Soldiers at www.usamu.com or at www.goarmy.com .
PFC Vincent Hancock pulled off a great, if not dramatic, win for the second AMU Olympic gold medal in 2008! Leading by one shot into the finals he fired a 24 out of 25, the second placed competitor shot 25 out of 25. The Norwegian that tied him had to shoot first and he shot both targets clean. Hancock followed with a perfect pair as well. SPC Jeff Holguin’s father said, “Everyone get comfortable, this could go on for awhile”. Luckily the Norwegian dropped one of his next two and Hancock was perfect on his pair, proving again that the 19 yr old is solid in pressure situations.
Afterwards Hancock said, “I just got really mad when I missed that one and that was the end of it. I knew I wouldn’t miss again” During the press conference that followed Hancock spoke with pride about his brother who recently returned from his second tour in Iraq and is also stationed at Ft Benning GA. The respect that each Soldier has for each other is obvious. PFC Hancock is the youngest of 23 United States Army Marksmanship Unit Olympic medal winners.
Tomorrow SFC Jason Parker shoots in the final shooting event of the 2008 Olympics. He will be competing against a tough field of 3 Position International Rifle Shooters.