US Army Marksmanship Unit’s Connection to the Olympic Games

US Army Marksmanship Unit’s Connection to the Olympic Games

FORT MOORE, Ga. — Shooting sports debuted at the 1896 Olympics in Athens, Greece, in front of an audience of 40,000 spectators.

The sport, which was one of the original nine disciplines at those first modern Games, included five events: 200m military rifle, 300m three-position rifle, 25m military pistol, 25m rapid fire pistol and 30m free pistol.

With the exception of the 1904 and 1928 Olympics, shooting sports have been a vital part of every Summer Olympics since.

Today, the number of events has increased to 15: men’s and women’s Olympic trap, men’s and women’s skeet, men’s and women’s 10m air rifle, men’s and women’s 50m three-position rifle (or smallbore), men’s and women’s 10m air pistol, women’s 25m pistol, men’s 25m rapid fire pistol, mixed 10m air rifle team, mixed 10m air pistol team and mixed skeet team.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit was established in 1956 by President Eisenhower with the goal of increasing the nation’s marksmanship skills in competition. Since then, Soldiers of the unit have earned spots on every U.S. Olympic Shooting Team.

The first official Olympic medal for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit technically predates the unit and was won by Huelet “Joe” Benner in the slow fire free pistol event at the 1952 Games in Helsinki, Finland. Benner earned his spot on Team USA when he was in the unit that was renamed the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit just four years later.

By the 1964 Tokyo, Japan Games, the USAMU Soldiers were well established and sent a powerhouse of marksmen to compete, bringing home six individual Olympic medals.

William Morris claimed the bronze medal in Olympic trap while Martin Gunnarsson and Tommy Pool secured their own bronze medals in three-position free rifle and prone smallbore rifle, respectively. Lones Wigger edged out Pool for the silver medal in prone smallbore rifle. And Wigger and Gary Anderson both won gold medals in three-position smallbore rifle and three-position free rifle, respectively.


In 1968, Capt. Jack Writer won the silver medal in three-position smallbore rifle at the Mexico City Olympic Games. Then four years later, he won the gold in that same event at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. Today, the Olympian is a vital part of the USAMU Custom Firearms Shop.

The first woman to win an Olympic shooting medal was a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. Maj. Margret Murdock won the silver medal at the 1976 three-position smallbore rifle event in Montreal, Canada. This medal was also unique in the fact that there were no separate events for women at the time. Murdock had no problem competing in the men’s event. In fact, she actually tied the gold medalist, Maj. Lanny Bassham who was also part of the U.S. Marksmanship Unit.

By the 1984 Olympics, women were given their own shooting sports events. And again, members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit stood out. Capt. Wanda Jewell secured the bronze medal in three-position smallbore rifle. Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Dan Carlisle claimed the bronze medal in Olympic trap. Then adding two gold medals to the Team USA count were Staff Sgt. Matt Dryke and Capt. Edward Etzel in the skeet and smallbore prone rifle events, respectively.

As the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit earned more Olympic Medals over the years, the unit became known as the Home of Champions. A testament to the nickname, the last four Olympic medals won by USAMU Soldiers have been gold.

At the 2008 Beijing, China Olympics Sgts. Glenn Eller and Vincent Hancock stood at the top of the podium in men’s double trap and men’s skeet. Hancock then went on to claim his second gold medal at the 2012 Games in London, England.

And at the most recent Summer Games in 2020, 1st Lt. Amber English brought home the gold in women’s skeet, making the USAMU Olympic medal count 26.

Four USAMU Soldiers have earned spots on Team USA and will represent the nation at the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, France.

Sgt. Ivan Roe, a Manhattan, Montana native will compete in at his first Olympic Games in both the men’s 10m air rifle and 50m three-position rifle (or smallbore) events.

Sgt. Sagen Maddalena, a Groveland, California, native will compete in both the women’s 10m air rifle and 50m three-position rifle (or smallbore) events. This will be the first Olympic Games for Maddalena in the 10m air rifle event, but the second in the 50m three-position rifle (or smallbore) event. She competed at the Tokyo Games, where she placed fifth in the smallbore finals.

Staff Sgt. Will Hinton, a Dacula, Georgia, native will represent the nation in men’s Olympic trap. Staff Sgt. Rachel Tozier, a Pattonsburg, Missouri, native will compete in women’s Olympic trap. This is the first time either of these Soldiers have participated in the Olympics.

After the Olympic Games, the Paralympics will begin and U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s Staff Sgt. Kevin Nguyen, a Westminster, California, native will be there to compete in the R6 prone rifle event.

As the Games kick off on July 26, 2024, in Paris, the rich history of Soldier-Olympians from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit will continue.

By LTC Michelle Lunato