By Emily D. Anderson, WTC Communications Division
When you think of an Army unit, most of the time the thought of an artillery unit or infantry unit comes to mind, but the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Paralympic Section wants to change that thought process by showing the military contains a multitude of diversity in units and Soldiers.
“As a shooter, you grow up watching and competing in this sport, the Army Marksmanship Unit is the apex of where you want to be,” said Sgt. 1st Class Armando Ayala, the Paralympic Section coach and El Paso, Texas native. “It is a natural progression to want to eventually end up in this unit.”
Originally formed in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the USAMU trains its soldiers to win competitions and enhances combat readiness through train-the-trainer clinics, research and development.
Despite the long hours of training and the time dedicated to competing, Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson and Staff Sgt. John Joss are two soldiers assigned to the USAMU Paralympic Section and use their expertise to train other Paralympic hopefuls as well as junior riflemen and wounded warriors.
“I really enjoy the basic training of high school students because when they learn something and can apply it, they get really excited. Their confidence increases,” said Olson of Spokane, Wash. “They stand a little straighter when you give them a few basic pointers, and they start shooting 15 out of 20 or 18 out of 20.”
The USAMU’s ground-breaking Paralympic Section is comprised with Army wounded, ill and injured Soldiers who showcase the Army and help raise the standard of the Army’s marksmanship proficiency.
“This section was formed to recruit and train wounded warriors in national and international games,” Ayala said. “We are training Soldiers to accomplish in three or four years, what those in the civilian world are doing in 15 years.”
“It is important that wounded warriors understand this is not a wounded warrior program. It is not a given program,” he added. “We expect them to come here, work hard, maintain the status of the team, and be very driven and coachable.”
In 2013, both Olson and Joss showed the world their impressive shooting skills. Olson, who lost his right leg in an ambush in 2003 while deployed to Iraq, became the first active-duty Soldier wounded in combat to compete in the Paralympic Games when he competed in two events at the London Games in 2012.
“It was great, but if I could change anything about it is that I would let myself enjoy it more.” Olson said about his 2012 London Games experience. “I was so focus on my training that I didn’t step back and take it in that I was competing against the world’s best shooting athletes.”
Joss, a Burkburnett, Texas native, received recognition as the 2013 Paralympic Athlete of the Year by USA Shooting, an organization recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee as the national governing body for the sport of shooting.
I was surprised that I was named the Paraylmpic Athlete of the Year,” said Joss, who currently serves on Continuation on Active Duty, an opportunity for wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers to continue their service after being found physically unfit by a Physical Evaluation Board.
“This honor is usually reserved for those more prestigious, so to receive it for my first year of shooting is kind of humbling,” said Joss.
For more information about the USAMU Paralympic Section, visit http://www.usaac.army.mil/amu/unit/paralympic.asp or visit http://www.wtc.army.mil/modules/soldier/s6-coadCOAR.html to learn about Continuation on Active Duty.