JROTC creates an air rifle team


This year, the Tunstall JROTC program has decided to create a brand new air rifle team. JROTC units are authorized to conduct several competitive programs, one of which is an air rifle team. Although not many schools have this event, the rifles and equipment necessary for this activity were provided through Cadet Command, national head of the JROTC programs.

COL. Phillips guiding the cadets in with their shooting (Christopher Flores-Bravo)

There are currently seven cadets on the team: John Branch, Aaron Gunn, Jackson Wethington, Michael Walker, Alan Cardwell, Gavin Smith, and Jesus Hernandez Galvin. The Senior Army Instructor, Colonel Phillips, coaches the team and helps guide them to success and victories. 

Usually, the season would start during the fall and follow into the spring, but the schools in the county, along with George Washington High School and Bedford, decided to host a league for the second semester of the 2022-23 school year. The reason for the start of the league is to give cadets the opportunity to compete competitively without the busyness of other competitions, such as drill and color guard, and to help promote rifle safety and rifle marksmanship with the cadets in the program.

Matches work on a weekly basis. The cadets on the team have all week to choose a day to shoot their targets. They gather in the storage room behind the gym and shoot their targets. The targets they shoot at are barely bigger than a half dollar coin. The rifles they use have no magnification on them; It is just a peep sight to see through.

The targets they are aiming at (Christopher Flores-Bravo)

The points start from the outside and go inwards: the edge of the circle being worth one point, and the center of the circle(as small as the tip of a pencil) being worth ten points. The targets are set up a number of yards from where the shooter stands. The shooter gets a couple minutes to shoot their shots. Each person gets 10 shots for each position: standing, kneeling, and prone. 

“Standing is the most difficult position. It’s all about the bone structure and being able to keep the rifle steady,” Colonel Phillips said. Kneeling is easier, but after a couple of minutes, the leg begins to get numb and the knees start to hurt. The easiest position of the three is prone. Laying down in the prone position gives the shooter the most stability and better accuracy.

The cadets in the program appreciate the opportunity to participate in this activity. Junior Jesus Hernandez Galvin enjoys being on the team and being able to compete. Hernandez joined the team because he loves to compete. “It’s not an ordinary sport. It isn’t like soccer, basketball, or any of those sports,” Hernandez said. He would love to participate next year, but his football schedule gets in the way with the team starting on schedule next school year.

John Branch controlling his breathing (Christopher Flores-Bravo)

One more cadet on the team is freshman John Branch. Branch had always had the anticipation to shoot competitively ever since he was in fifth grade. He enjoys having the opportunity to see his friends after school and show off his marksmanship skills. “I just like being able to hang out with friends after school,” Branch says. 

In order to participate on the team, students must be enrolled in the JROTC class for that semester. Being a part of the program will allow each person to have many opportunities to compete in a variety of ways: drill team, air rifle team, color guard, etc. Having former shooting experiences is not a requirement to join. 

Cadet John Branch explains why students should join JROTC and their air rifle team, “It would be a nice learning experience. It can partially help them with their learning skills on focus and getting their breathing under control in stressful moments.”

The air rifle team’s current record is 2-1 with 5 more weeks of the season left. If interested in enrolling in JROTC and/or joining the team, students may speak with their guidance counselor for scheduling and Colonel Phillips for more information in room F101.