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Competitive shooting: more than commander's hobby

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Candy Miller
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
When the 80th Flying Training Wing commander became a pilot he decided he needed to be proficient with his weapon in case he is ever in a combat environment. His diligence with combat weapons training resulted in a love for competitive shooting as an active member of the United States Practical Shooting Association.

The first seven years of the Col. Kevin Schneider's career were overseas, which didn't allow him a lot of time to dedicate to shooting. He returned stateside in 1996 and worked on being a credible shooter. For the next 10 years, he spent time shooting, but didn't get into any serious competitions.

Colonel Schneider said his assignment to Special Operations Task Forces in 2007 introduced him to some of the best shooters in the world. He made friends who were trained in hostage rescue shooting.

"It turned into something more than a hobby," he said. He also said hearing stories of his friend that was a prisoner of war in Operation Desert Storm made him realize the risks of flying fighter aircraft.

"If I was in combat and my aircraft was shot down, all I would have is a pistol and I would need to be proficient at shooting to protect myself," the colonel said. "It's one of those skills that is important to someone in the military because when it comes to combat, there is a penalty for being the second best shooter."

Being surrounded by experienced shooters led the then-lieutenant colonel to train with Matt Burkett, a professional shooter and trainer.

"Matt pointed out a lot of flaws in my stance, grip, focus and body control," Colonel Schneider said. "After about an hour with him, I realized I've been wasting a lot of ammo in shooting."

In 2008, the colonel began seriously competing with a goal of at least one club match every month. That September, Colonel Schneider was 2nd place in his category at the Utah State Championships.

"I typically shoot about 1,000 rounds per month but if I'm preparing for a match I'll shoot around 2,000 rounds per month," he said.

He said he uses an STI International M1911 pistol and usually competes in the Limited Category.

The 80th FTW commander said he has missed a match because of his duties at Sheppard and sometimes staying current in shooting can be difficult. Although he has never had to use the ability in combat, he likes that "it's a skill set that applies directly to my job in the military.

Colonel Schneider said, "...in a competition, you're shooting at multiple targets while moving in and around obstacles. You have to make decisions to shoot or not and are judged based on time and accuracy."

Colonel Schneider said he has shot in local matches during his time at Sheppard but his next big competition will be the Double Tap Championship in Wichita Falls, Texas in March 2010.