Thursday, August 09, 2018

My Decade as a GSM Instructor

I was in the first GSM Master Instructor class.  It was taught at Camp Pendleton in November 2006 as part of the CMP Western Games.  It was a three-day class by then head of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, Gary Anderson.  We were guinea pigs for an experiment.  Our mission would be to take what we learned back to our clubs and create programs to teach the sport of high power riflery to Americans, most of whom, were unfamiliar with shooting, let alone the firearms of Games competition.  It was one of the most rewarding shared experiences of my life and it began a 10-year journey that both my love for the sport. The class was truly experimental.  Gary spent lots of time not only teaching his prepared material but working with us on feedback about how to alter and improve the curriculum.  If you have copies of the early teaching materials for the GSM course, the photos were of people I knew taken during that first Western Games. 

I took what I learned back to the Burbank Rifle and Revolver Club (BRRC) and, working with Wayne Fenner, my friend and fellow sponsor of the California Grizzlies Junior Rifle Team, adapted BRRC’s training match program to the CMP’s approach.  Over the course of almost a decade, I taught a battalion of Americans from every walk of life and every political and ethnic background that is the landscape of Southern California how to operate and compete with the U.S. Rifle M-1 Garand.  It defined one weekend of every month of my life.  We experimented with every CMP match format that came out, often discussing concepts with Gary and the CMP team.

It was a second hand deja vu process of sorts.  Somewhere along the way I obtained a copy of Edward C. Crossman's book, "Military and Sporting Rifle Shooting: A Complete and Practical Treatise Covering the Use of Modern Military, Target and Sporting Rifles".  It was written in the 1930's and the modern rifle being alluded to was the U.S Rifle M1903 Springfield.  In it were a series of exploratory letters about the vision and implementation of competitive shooting.  Ed Crossman was a founding member of the Burbank Rifle and Revolver Club.  At one time he oversaw the development of BRRC's riflely program, the same job I had as the club's Activities Chairman and GSM Master Instructor.  Funny how things go in cycles.   

Looking back, I trained a hell of a battalion. Many of the students I taught went on to become accomplished competitors in their own right.  I’ve watched them win metals, major tournaments, become distinguished riflemen.  Some set national records. One made it to the Olympic Trials.  I beamed with pride like a proud papa at all of it; ok, sometimes like a benevolent drill instructor. The true reward was to hear from all of them again and again over the years.  I’ve never been to a match since then where someone doesn’t call out my name to say hello, often to say thank you, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you.  It humbles me.

I’m from the old school that says you pass on what you have learned because you pay forward in gratitude to those who taught you; and so it was the decade I was BRRC’s GSM Master Instructor of record. I did it for free as gratitude to those who taught me. And there have been many. My first line coach was a steely eyed woman named Noma. My last line coach, at another Western Games/Creedmoor Cup, has the same first name that I do. I remember when I got my State of California Firearms Instructor license.  I submitted my CMP GSM Master Instructor certificate as proof of competency.  CA-DOJ licensing had never seen one before. They were delighted.  I was beyond proud.

If you want to make a difference to the growth of our sport, consider taking the time to become a GSM Master Instructor.  Set your goal the same as I did.  Teach another battalion of Americans what it means to be the caretakers of our heritage from behind every blade of grass.