United States Police and Fire Championships, Pt. 2
Police Action Pistol Team
Pala Shooting Range
Friday, June 27...
The girls were excited. We had made it to the big leagues and were shooting against the best of the best. This was no local match; it was the Police Olympics! Every year, each sport gets talked up or talked about based on this event. There is respect to be won and lost. Nicknames to earn that will echo around the substation for months afterwards. And most importantly, there is everyone's reputation to build or shatter. We were here, bringing everything to put it on the line as we fired downrange.
Our female shooting team was still very new. We were getting a reputation. We were getting pats on the back from Command and talked about by those who thought we weren't good enough. And here we were, heads high with confidence, stepping up to earn our place beside the men, because that's what women in law enforcement do. Nothing is given, not a job, not respect, not trust - if you're female, it all has to be earned by proving yourself with sweat, hard work, and sometimes blood, but never tears.
Everybody's going for the Gold at the U.S. Police & Fire Championships. Photo by Laurel Yoshimoto
I walked up to check my team in and my partner, Jean, came up to me. Jean, a beautiful lady originally from the Philippines, was glowing and my heart leapt to see her looking so happy. "We won! I got bronze and you got gold!" I stared at her in disbelief, doubting that she could possibly be right. I had barely managed to finish the individual match. I had shot against some good females, one of which was good enough to be on her force's SWAT team.
"We won?!" I could hear my voice squeak upwards in excitement.
Empathically nodding her head, Jean answered in her lilting voice with just a touch of an accent left after years in the USA, "YES!"
"EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!" We both shrieked, then were hugging and jumping at the same time, much to the amusement of our male counterparts. We might be 'tough' women in law enforcement, but sometimes the 16 year-old in each of us gets too excited and has to scream like a schoolgirl.
The rest of my team fed off of our excitement. "They got the individuals, now let's go get that team gold!!!" Rachel, one of the most natural leaders I have ever met, stepped up and delivered her signature line to the team with all the confidence, sass, and verve of a star from the silver screen, "Let's get this, ladies!" And get it we did.
Chatting animatedly we set out for our stage, broke it down, and decided who would shoot which part. It was a lovely stage, all steel except for one turning cardboard, comprised of red and white. Each shooter had to knock down the red steel in her lane before the next could go. Once the red was down, it was a free-for-all in plowing down the white. We couldn't have started on a better stage. The joy of steel ringing and falling fanned our enthusiasm. We had momentum and were unbeatable.
The women of Trigger Team 18 hammer the steel during the U.S. Police & Fire Championships. Photo courtesy of Laurel Yoshimoto
We critically watched the other females when we could, noting their mistakes and weaknesses, analyzing stances, grip, and attitude. At every mistake they made, we looked at each other knowingly. Their trips and stumbles fed the flame of competition burning in our hearts. We would do better. And we did.
The next stages were mixes of steel and paper, shot weak hand, strong hand, and free style. There were poppers, swingers, statics, and turners. We addressed each target accordingly, leaving marks on the painted steel or holes in the cardboard in our wake.
We chatted up the men from other teams, to get their perspective on how our competition team was shooting. They all said we had it in the bag. We thought we did too.
The next stage was a composite of four parts we had to shoot relay-style, handing off our baton as we went. I went first, choosing to shoot my favorite friend, the Texas star, among other things. I ran up to the line, full of confidence, and couldn't believe what happened. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. What? Instead of doing the one planned standing reload, I did three. Three!!! I ran back and handed off the baton to my partner, Davida, who spent the measly 20 seconds on the stage that it deserved. Not the eternity that I had. The other ladies on my team shot well. The newly engaged Rachael put the A-hits on the swinging paper, despite her giant engagement ring weighing down her left hand. Katie knocked down the poppers and plate rack like an old hand. My team was fine, what had happened to me?
The newly engaged Rachel Lawson adds some bling to bang and clang. Photo by Laurel Yoshimoto
We reached the last stage in time to see a squad of females, The Queen Bees, finish up their round. I couldn't let down my team. I couldn't let this other department beat mine. We had to win.
I took a break and regrouped as I swigged down some water. I could do this. We could do this. I uttered my mantra, "smooth, smooth, smooooth," under my breath and imagined how that perfect trigger press felt.
Trigger Team 18 gathered together for our last stage, and shot through the windows of a house that had no roof. It was again a relay stage. Each shooter had certain windows to clear of targets. Rachel went first, confidently shooting each cardboard, then it was my turn. I grabbed the baton with my weak hand and rotated to the window, sliding my right hand to gain a master grip on my gun. I drew and aimed. "Smooth! Smooth!" my gun sang as I double tapped the cardboard that had been creatively painted with "no shoot" areas. "Smooth! Smooth!" as I transitioned to the next window. "Smooth! Smooth!" as I assessed my targets. My shots were not more than an inch apart and all A's. I handed the baton off to Davida with a smile of pleasure. All I had to do now was watch my partners kick butt.
I listened to the proper cadence of a Polish plate rack being demolished, and grinned. Davida was a natural. Katie grabbed the baton and ran up a flight of stairs as she drew. One more plate rack, one more swinger, and we were done.
We grounded our gear and gathered around the tables with the rest of the teams, waiting for the results and reapplying our lipstick. We couldn't stop talking about how much fun it had been. Jean, who had shot with Team LEAAP because there were only 4 people allowed per team, and LEAAP had asked her so nicely, joined us and we fell into a discussion of gear, practice schedules, and up-coming matches. Patrick Russell, the match director, cleared his throat and silence fell as Jeff Gross stood expectantly, holding gold medals. All eyes were on them.
The men were called first, to the cheers of competitors and jeers of good friends. LAPD won gold, and, after having been beat by their women at the Baker to Vegas race earlier in the year, I blurted out, "Why do they always win?"
"Because San Diego PD didn't shoot the match, we hosted it!" one burly man shouted. The handing out of medals broke down for a minute into laughter, banter, and jibes, then the crowd hushed and the women were called.
Trigger Team 18, my team, stood and waited for the results. Time seemed to slow and blood thundered lethargically in my ears. We all held our breath. The Earth lumbered farther around the Sun, trying to push its way straight as gravity pulled it in towards the exploding star. Doubts began to form as the seconds passed. Were we as good as we thought we were? Had my fumbling Stage 4 killed us? The worry and tension was abruptly ended, like a taut string snapping. The match directors smiled and belted out, "Trigger Team 18 for the gold!!!"
The Orange County Sheriff Department's Trigger Team 18 finds Gold to be the perfect accessory. Photo courtesy of Laurel Yoshimoto
The gold was ours! We were the champions of the Police Olympics! We ladies of Station 18 couldn't have smiled more broadly. We were on the road to success and destiny was calling our name. All we had to do was keep working hard to answer.
- Laurel Yoshimoto
Laurel is an average shooter who fell in love with shooting sports eight years ago. She resides happily with her loving husband and young son in Southern California and is proud to serve in Law Enforcement.