Crimson Trace

February 5, 2014

Between The Berms: Howdy!

"Howdy!" said the man by way of greeting the assembled crowd.

And quick came the enthusiastic reply of "Howdy!" but only from the small group at the back corner of the crowd.

They were cadets.

Not everybody understood the proper response, so the man up front explained that "Howdy is how we greet people here at Texas A&M." In fact, it's the official greeting at the school. So this time, when he said "Howdy!" the entire crowd responded, and with gusto.

And that's how Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez (USA Ret.), Commandant of the Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets, welcomed the shooters, coaches and family members participating in the 2nd Annual Scholastic Pistol Program (SPP) Southwest Winter Regional Championship, sponsored by Glock.

After teaching everybody how to properly greet each other at Texas A&M, Brid. Gen. Ramirez welcomes the crowd and encourages those in high school, and their parents, to speak with any of his cadets about life at A&M and in the Corps of Cadets. Photo by P. Erhardt

Last year at this match they had about 40 or so shooters, but this year A&M played host to over 90 competitors.

The match is the brainchild of Kevin Jimmerson, the coach of the Corps of Cadets Marksmanship Unit (CCMU) which itself is a little over two years old. Unlike a lot of collegiate shooting teams, the Marksmanship Unit has enjoyed, from day one, the full support of Commandant Ramirez. This was made clear to everybody attending by the fact that the General was wearing his own CCMU team jersey.

Held just a few minutes off A&M's College Station campus, the SPP Regional event took place at the Gunsmoke Shooting Range in Snook. It is both a competition drawing multiple teams from A&M and the University of Florida (as well as several high school teams) and a giant A&M recruiting event.

Texas A&M takes athletics and competition very seriously - it's the true home of the Twelfth Man, after all - but it also takes its role as host with an equal degree of dedication.

So, before the first SPP shots were fired on Saturday, members of the Corps' famed Parsons Mounted Cavalry fired their own first shot - a single round from The Spirit of '02 cannon.

Members of the Parsons Mounted Cavalry 'Whooping' after firing off The Spirit of '02. A&M is the only college known to have its own operating field artillery piece, a 3-inch M1902 field gun which was discovered rusted and rotting in November of 1974 and since restored to full operational order. Photo by P. Erhardt

The night before the teams and their families were treated to an indoor barbecue at Sanders Corps Center which is the repository of the Corps' history, traditions and accomplishments. Not to mention the spectacular Metzger-Sanders Antique Firearm Collection.

On the range, Cadet volunteers could be found everywhere, controlling parking, scorekeeping and even painting targets. They were also the de facto admissions office representatives, there to answer any questions about Texas A&M and the Corps of Cadets that students and parents might have.

Former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Gene Overstreet, USMC(ret), speaks to cadets after the match. Always at the ready to step forward when needed, SgtMajMC Overstreet challenges the cadets to find ways to improve the match to provide an even better experience for A&M's guests next year. Photo by P. Erhardt

All of this was just part of Texas A&M's hospitality. But when they roll out the red carpet they really roll it out...only it's maroon.

When it came time to shoot the match-up to watch was that between the University of Florida's centerfire team and that of the Corps of Cadets. With such a small number of collegiate pistol teams participating the relationships, and rivalries, that are developing are fun to watch.

Jimmerson and Deon Martin, coach of the Florida team, are both competition shooters and clearly enjoy competing head-to-head vicariously through their teams. No small amount of ribbing and trash talking took place throughout the match. But all of it done with a healthy amount of respect.

Florida's coach, Deon Martin, watches over his shooters during the competition, admitting that he's more nervous coaching than if he were competing himself. Photo by P. Erhardt

Texas A&M's Kevin Jimmerson has been working with the CCMU from the start. In addition to acting as one of the match directors, he guided his squads through the four stages of the competition. Photo by P. Erhardt

By match end A&M took top honors. Led by Matt Hawes with the top overall time of 50.23 seconds, Jordan Walker (51.49), Zach Williams (52.34) and Parker Zaitz (53.73) of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Marksmanship Unit won the collegiate title with a total time of 207.79.

The University of Florida shooters, Erik Holtz (54.74), Tom Davis (57.86), James Nguyen (59.61) and Ken Wuenschell (61.30), combined for a total time of 233.51 to capture second place.

Third place went to the Texas A&M Pistol Team where Jordan Williams (94.14), Danielle Snow (98.88), Jason Mathis (104.06) and Cooper Barry (117.90) posted a time of 414.98.

In the collegiate rimfire contest, the Corps of Cadets came out ahead again with their Maroon Squad finishing with a team time of 232.75. Jason Cusack led with 51.68, followed by Bryan Bonnette (53.54), John Burton (63.54) and Cole Dunson (63.99).

Texas A&M CCMU's White Squad placed second with 280.89, led by Peter Miller (57.01), Brendan Gould (67.37), Sierra Martin (77.82) and Naomi Boyer (78.69).

The Gators of the Univ. of Florida claimed third (306.98) through the efforts of Evan Doss (57.17), Billy Salvato (61.78), Kristin Littlefield (87.83) and Earl Richard (100.20).

The 22 squads and more than 90 shooters were vying for their share of the SPP medals. Photo by P. Erhardt

These are just six of the 22 squads that competed. What was most interesting about the match was the number of junior and senior level shooters from high schools and middle schools that attended, including one team from as far away as Massachusetts.

Putting these squads on the same range as the collegiate shooters helps foster a closer shooting community and gives them a real example of where shooting can take them. This is especially true for shooters like Paddy Sullivan of the Holyoke Revolver Club who posted the second best overall time (50.87) in centerfire and was informed he'd be welcome on either the Florida or the A&M team.

For my money, it would be hard to pass up the opportunity to join the Aggies and the Corps of Cadets Marksmanship Unit. There's something special about Texas A&M and the way they stand ready to get things done...like a great shooting match experience.

It's that whole Twelfth Man ethos of service.

At dinner Saturday night after the competition, sitting with Ed Fitzgerald of Glock and Tom Yost of Smith & Wesson (the founding sponsors of SPP), Scott Moore and Tammy Mowry of SPP, I got to sit next to and chat with Glock's R. Lee Ermey.

Gunny summed up the overall feel of the event when he observed that Aggies, especially the cadets, walk tall and that the Aggieland campus is infused with a particular sort of enthusiasm and energy that any visitor can feel.

Who am I to argue? If you're participating in the Scholastic Pistol Program then the Southwest Regional at A&M has got to go on your 2015 match schedule. Trust me, you'll love it.

The combined squads of the Univ. of Florida and Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Marksmanship Unit, Gators and Aggies, pose with their medals and trophy. These two schools are throwing gasoline on the collegiate pistol shooting fire down south, and proud of it. Photo by P. Erhardt

You can find more photos from the match on The Shooting Wire's Facebook page.

- Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network

Got shooting sports news? Send us an email at info@shootingwire.com.