Warrior Games Marksman Hunts for Gold

By Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom

Warrior Games shooter SPC David Oliver poses at the Walter Reed Warrior Transition Brigade marksmanship training range.

Warrior Games 2011 is just around the corner. On May 17, roughly 200 Warrior Games athletes from all the military services will gather at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO to compete in track and field, cycling, swimming, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, archery, and shooting events. The members of the Army shooting team in particular, are determined to continue last year’s winning streak. In 2010, the Army shooting team was awarded 9 of the 12 shooting medals.

Despite the fact that last year’s winner was determined by a slim three tenths of a point, SPC David Oliver is looking for gold when he journeys to Colorado next week. Oliver was an infantryman serving in Afghanistan in December of 2009. He was serving as the gunner of a vehicle when it was attacked and rolled off the side of the road. His right arm sustained a crushing injury which required medical evacuation to Walter Reed and amputation of his arm at the shoulder.

Oliver immediately signed up for the Warrior Games after he heard the announcement at a Walter Reed Warrior Transition Brigade (WTB) company formation in January. When asked why he chose shooting, his response was both direct and confident, “I’ve always been a naturally good shot.” Oliver strengthened his natural ability by completing additional training time on the range each week and additional strength training. Noting that his injury has since turned him from a right-handed to left-handed shooter, and asked if it was difficult to switch hands, he replied, “Not really. When it comes down to it, the fundamentals of shooting are the same.” It is clear that this Sacramento, CA native mastered the mental resiliency required to meet the high pressure environment of the competitive shooting range.

MSG Howard Day, the Warrior Games shooting coach for the Army team describes the course of fire for the rifle competitors as 40 pellets shot in 70 minutes at a target roughly 30 feet away. The difficulty of this feat can only be gauged upon examination of the target. The ten scoring rings are grouped on a paper square no bigger than a cocktail napkin, and the “ten” ring is about the width of a pencil eraser. Day explained, “one dropped shot and you might as well pack it in and go home.” The finalists will most likely be determined by a computer that can calculate exactly how close to the center of the ten ring each shot is placed.

Although Day concludes that the Warrior Games are “not about the medals,” it is clear that SPC David Oliver will bring his best competitive game to Colorado Springs and feels that he will show strong for the Army and himself. As for the future, Oliver places a high priority on staying in the Army but will keep all options open. There is no doubt that he will succeed when he applies the same shooter mentality and focus he is exercising on the range to explore his future career options.

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