Army Cadet Is Armed For Action




The following article appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette on March 3, 2008, and was written by Brian Gomez.

   Like most elite shooters, Stephen Scherer has goals and dreams.

   His goal is to shoot in the Olympics. His dream is to shoot on a battlefield.

   The West Point freshman hopes an appearance at the Summer Olympics in Beijing in August becomes a springboard to an Army career in which the stakes are raised to a potentially deadly level.

   Scherer, 19, of Billerica, Mass., won the U.S. Olympic shooting trials in men’s air rifle Monday at the Olympic Training Center. Two-time Olympian Jason Parker, a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, claimed the other men’s rifle Olympic spot by finishing second.

   In women’s rifle, Colorado Springs resident Emily Caruso earned her second straight Olympic berth. Scherer’s sister, Sarah, finished second to Caruso but did not qualify for Beijing. The Olympic spots in pistol went to Jason Turner and Rebecca Snyder, both of Colorado Springs. Turner competed at the 2004 Athens Games, and Snyder is a three-time Olympian.

    The first cadet in 48 years to qualify for the Olympics, Scherer must graduate from West Point before he can realize his dream.

   Scherer is Army’s top shooter, having lifted the Black Knights to a Great America Rifle Conference title and a No. 2 national ranking. He’ll shoot next week in the NCAA Championships at West Point.

   Instead of pursuing multiple Olympic berths, Scherer aspires to “make a difference” as an infantry soldier. He’s not afraid of deployment, even if it means facing combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.

   ““I place a lot of emphasis on my Army career , said Scherer.  " I put that first. 

  “That’s the great thing about the military the attitude of accepting your duty and serving your country. Everybody gives sacrifices. The people you’re serving are your brothers. It’s like a family.”

   Parker, 33, of Omaha, Neb., hasn’t been sent overseas in 11 years with the Army Marksmanship Unit, a training group similar to the World Class Athlete Program, which is for active-duty personnel in the Army and Air Force.

   The Army Marksmanship Unit, established in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, provides funding for shooters who participate in major competitions such as the world championships and the Olympics.

   In return, Olympic shooters like Parker instruct Army soldiers in marksmanship. And they promote the Army whenever possible.

   “We have an important job of training other soldiers so they can survive on the battlefield,” said Parker, a sergeant first class stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. “That’s our primary mission. We’re proud of that.”

   Asked if he would embrace deployment, Parker said, “I’d love to help any way I could. If they deploy me, that’s the way it goes. It wouldn’t bother me either way. Whatever mission the Army gives me, that’s the one I’m going to fulfill.”

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