Giving It Their Best Shot
North Brunswick High School’s Army JROTC air rifle team earns top awards in a national competition.
What makes the 11 members of the JROTC rifle team at North Brunswick High School sharpshooters? “Practice,” says senior Jasmine Lopez.
After winning and qualifying in local competitions then the regional competitions in Anniston, Alabama, the team went to Camp Perry, Ohio, to compete in the two-day JROTC National Air Rifle Championship Sporters Division. At this national event, 220 cadets across all services — Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines —competed. North Brunswick High School (NBHS) won first place for the Army Sporter Division.. In addition, the team earned fifth-place honors across all services.
The NBHS team shot 20 rounds of .177 pellets from an air rifle in the prone position, standing position and kneeling position. The maximum score at each position is 200 points, thus 600 total points or 1,200 over two days.
1st Sgt. (ret.) George Williams, who has coached the team for 24 years, says consistency is the key to being a good shooter, doing it the same way over and over. “They have put in many hours practicing,” Williams says. “The seniors show the underclassmen how important it is to practice.”
Senior Jose Gonzalez is the number one shooter in the Army JROTC Sporter Class and the number five shooter in the Sporter Class in the nation across all services. He scored 1,109 points at the national championship.
“I developed my own way of shooting,” the marksman says. He explains that in the standing position, he bends his right leg while the official stance is to keep the legs straight. “He’s mastered that position,” Williams says. “I don’t try to change it.”
Gonzalez says what he likes most about the rifle team is competing in other cities and towns where he meets fellow rifle team members. He already has gone through Army basic training, is in the Army National Guard and will take Advanced Individual Training in July. He enters East Carolina University (ECU) in the fall and at ROTC plans to enroll in ROTC and major in Criminology.
Lopez scored 1,083 points in the final competition. She has a three-year ROTC scholarship to ECU and plans to major in criminology. She enjoys the rifle team because it is like a family community.
“The sport is mentally draining,” she says. “We give each other support. We are the same age group and having the same struggles. We can share our problems and concerns.”
Sophomore Tiffany Martinez scored 1,079 points and says when she started shooting, she did not like the rifle team. Williams encouraged her to give it a chance. “I decided to stay,” she says. She plans to become a veterinarian.
Freshman Chelsea Saunders says she likes the rifle team because it is different. “When I started shooting, I liked it and stuck with it,” she says. “I like the team and the environment. We are all very close and support each other to be our best.” She plans to enter the Air Force.
Williams states that “Our program is designed to help students be better citizens,” he says. JROTC instructors are not recruiters; however, from 5 to 10 percent of the JROTC cadets at NBHS enter the military due to the family history of military service or a desire to serve.
Marksmanship is just one of many opportunities that our cadets are exposed to in JROTC. As the rifle team coach, “I teach them how the rifle works. I initiate the teaching, but these kids train each other. I make sure they follow the rules. The shooter are also learning the importance of being a productive member of a team, self-discipline, focus, perseverance, and good sportsmanship.”
Senior Hannah Gore says she was interested in JROTC from the time she started at NBHS, and her stepfather encouraged her to join the rifle team. “I like the family aspect,” she says. She also enjoys meeting freshman, sophomore and junior students. Her goal is to attend Western Carolina University and study mechanical engineering.
Senior Julissa Bojorquez says she wanted to be on the rifle team for reasons of sibling rivalry: “My goal was to be better than my older brother, who was on the rifle team.” She achieved her goal and plans to enter UNCW and study nursing.
Each of the Brunswick County high schools has an indoor facility for the rifle team.
Team members shoot at an electronic target of 33 feet, and their scores are transmitted to a monitor at their shooting station. All the scores are relayed to Williams’ monitor.
When they are ready to shoot, Williams announces, “The range is hot. You may load and start.” He says personnel emphasizes safety as the first priority, and no one has ever been hit by a pellet.
A Gulf War veteran, Williams earned a multitude of awards including the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and Army Achievement Medal. He retired after 20 years of active service. Growing up in Longs, South Carolina, Williams says he always wanted to be a soldier. He earned his bachelor’s degree in leadership from Bellevue University in Nebraska. Williams denies he is a superior marksman. Instead, he says, “I am a better coach because of the knowledge I have about shooting as a sport.”
The team traveled back to Camp Perry, Ohio, June 23- 24 to compete in the CMP National Championship and the National Junior Olympic 3-Par Championship. The team placed 3rd in the CMP National Championship and 5th in the Junior Olympics.3-Par Championship.