Olympic Soldier

Sgt. Walton Glenn Eller

At age 30 Sgt. Walton Glenn Eller III, has accomplished what most of us can only dream of doing.  He is an American trap shooter and four-time U.S. Olympic athlete, competing in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 games. Sgt. Glenn Eller became an Olympic athlete at the tender age of twelve years old.  At the 2008 games in Beijing China, he won the gold medal in men’s double trap setting both an Olympic Record and a Final Olympic Record. If that wasn’t impressive enough, 2008 is also the first year that Sgt. Eller competed as a soldier in the United States Army. 

With an impressive resume which includes Olympic competition, World Championships at junior and adult levels, one might wonder why join the Army- wouldn’t that curtail your Olympic goals?  Sgt. Eller explained that contrary to what the public might believe, U.S. Olympic athletes are supported and trained in many branches of the military. 

“I decided to join the Army because the number two and number four best shooters were already in the unit- and number three was going in,” says Eller.

The unit Sgt. Eller is referring to is the USAMU- United States Army Marksmanship Unit. The USAMU was established in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to improve the marksmanship of all soldiers.  The primary purpose of the unit is described on their website; “The USAMU enhances combat readiness through the unit’s provision of technical and advisory assistance in the development of military match-type small arms, equipment and ammunition.” Upon request, USAMU will coordinate and conduct rifle and pistol marksmanship train-the-trainer clinics for U.S. military units throughout the world.

Additionally, the unit has the responsibility to promote the U.S. Army by heightening public trust and confidence in Army Marksmanship. These efforts are accomplished through active public information awareness programs, which assist the U.S. Army Accessions Command’s increasing requirement for top quality new recruits. The basis for these efforts focuses on the accomplishments and capabilities of USAMU shooters and technicians. USAMU soldiers also serve to enhance the public trust and confidence in the Army’s lethality with small arms.”  http://www.usaac.army.mil/amu/unit/history.asp

USAMU’s base of operations is at Ft. Benning Georgia, but the unit’s activities require the soldiers to travel the world.  Many of the unit’s members have been tasked with training Afghan soldiers in basic marksmanship, a deployment Sgt. Eller’s parents were aware of when he joined the Army. 

“My dad hung up on me,” Sgt. Eller laughs when describing his parent’s reaction to his joining the Army in 2006. “My mom cried, but I told her, ‘Mom, I finally got a job at least.’ She didn’t think that was funny.”

Sgt. Eller went through the same Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) as an infantry soldier with an 11 Bravo designation.  After that training was complete he was stationed at Ft. Benning where he continued his training for the Olympics.  A typical day as Sgt. Eller describes it, “Wake-up at o’dark thirty, eat breakfast, be on the range by 8:30 or 9 am, take a lunch break, train until 3 pm, do afternoon PT (physical training) then done for the day.”

Sgt. Eller further explained that this schedule was not typical as they are traveling for more than 200 days a year to various competitions or train the trainer events.  The US Olympic Shooting team arrived in Copenhagen weeks prior to the competitions for further training.  By July 26th they were headed to London for the opening rounds of competition. Sgt. Eller competed August 2nd in his event Double Trap Shooting.  Although Sgt. Eller didn’t earn medal placement this year, his team mate Sgt. Vincent Hancock another Olympic soldier, did bring home the Gold in his event- men’s skeet shooting. 

When asked what it was like to compete for Olympic gold, Sgt. Eller replied, “I just focus on what I need to do, which is try to hit more than anybody else.”

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